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How to tell if it's bullying

Not all unkind or hurtful behaviour is bullying. Here’s how to tell the difference.

Confused teen sitting in front of three buttons saying mean rude bullying

Bullying is different from conflict or unkindness

Bullying is mean, but being mean doesn't mean bullying

  • It’s normal to argue or have conflict with others
  • Not all conflict, fighting or arguing is bullying
  • Someone can be rude or mean and it doesn’t make them a bully
  • Both bullying and unkindness can be upsetting and hurtful

Rude, mean or bullying?

Here’s what they all mean:

Rude
Saying or doing something hurtful that wasn’t planned or meant to upset someone.
Mean
Saying or doing something hurtful to someone on purpose once or twice.
Bullying
Someone more powerful saying or doing something hurtful to someone on purpose, over and over again.

What’s the difference?

There are four things that can help you identify bullying over unkind, rude or mean behaviour.

Bullying is:

Unbalanced – the person who is bullying has more power (older, bigger, stronger, smarter, more control or influence).

Harmful – leaves you feeling hurt, harmed, unsafe, threatened, unable to defend yourself or make it stop.

Targeted they say or do things on purpose to hurt, embarrass, scare, harass or put you down.

Repeated – they act this way towards you over and over again, even if you tell them to stop.

How to tell if it's bullying

If you’re unsure if someone is being unkind or bullying you, ask yourself:

  • Was it done on purpose to hurt you?
  • Is it a pattern? Does it keep happening?
  • Is it about power - are they older, stronger or have more influence than you?

 

If you answered YES to all of these questions, then it’s likely to be bullying.

Sometimes conflict is upsetting and unavoidable, but bullying is NEVER ok or acceptable.

Need someone to talk to?

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Whether someone is bullying you or being unkind, it can hurt.

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This content was last reviewed 18/04/2019

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