What is bullying? What to do about bullying?


Bullying is a huge problem in schools all over the world. It is something that happens everyday. It is not just not an issue that should be dealt with on Anti-bullying week but all year through. As teachers we must be educated about bullying. How else can we help if we don’t understand?  You can use the content in this blog post to simply educate yourself, to use in your Religion, SPHE class or for anti-bullying/friendship/health week in your school. 

What is Bullying?

First of all, we need to define bullying.

Spunout defines bullying as the on-going abuse of another person through physical or mental torture. To make matters worse this torture is often conducted in the presence of others. The humiliation felt by the victim is hard to understand if you have never been bullied. If it happens over a long period of time it can have devastating effects on a young person’s mental health. In Ireland 1 in 4 people suffer from mental health issues.

“Bullying is defined as unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time.” Department of Education & Skills ‘Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools’ (Dublin: 2013)

“Bullying is a behavioural problem which affects the lives of thousands of school children and their families. The humiliation, fear, frustration and social isolation and loss of self esteem which children experience when bullied results in absenteeism from school, poor or deteriorating schoolwork, personality change, illness, depression and unfortunately sometimes suicide. Bullying knows no boundaries of age, sex or socio-economic background. It can take many forms; it can be short term or continue over long periods, even years.”

Anti-Bullying Centre, ‘Bullying at School; Key Facts” (Dublin: 2001)

“Cruel, abusive behaviour which is persistent and pervasive and causes suffering to individuals which is severe and sustained”

K. Rigby, ‘Bullying in Schools and What to do About It’ (London: Kingsley, 1997)

“Isolated incidents of aggressive behaviour, while they indicate a problem that needs to be sorted out, do not constitute bullying. However, where there is an imbalance and abuse of power and the behaviour is systematic and ongoing, it is bullying”

Sticks and Stones Handbook, (Dublin: 1995)

“Bullying can cause physical, mental, psychological, emotional and mental harm to a person or group. It is premeditated, pervasive, persistent, and cruel treatment which is meant to hurt or harm, and is enjoyed by the bullying perpetrator.”
David Fitzgerald, ‘Bullying in our Schools; Understanding and Tackling the Problem’ (Dublin: 1999)

The different types of bullying

  • Verbal Bullying:Teasing, jeering, name calling, slagging, mimicking.
    This can leave students feeling angry, frightened and powerless. If students are unable to share their feelings with someone else, verbal bullying can leave them emotionally bruised and physically exhausted. Their powers of concentration can suffer, adversely affecting their capacity for learning. Verbal attacks can be of highly personal and sexual nature. They can be directed at the child’s family, culture, race or religion. For example: Malicious rumours.
  • Physical Bullying: Something that is physically done to an individual, or their belongings.
    Fighting, hitting, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing. It’s often written off as ‘horseplay,’ ‘pretend’ or ‘just a game’ when challenged. Both boys and girls indulge in physical bullying, boys sometimes more so because it’s socially acceptable for them to be more physically aggressive, and their games and sports can allow for greater physical contact. There’s a misconception that physical bullying has to hurt, it doesn’t. It can be the “accidental” bumping into someone in the corridor, crowding them at the locker, invading their personal space. It is something that someone physically does to another.
  • Gesture Bullying:Threatening signs, dirty looks.
    There are many different forms of non-verbal threatening gestures that can portray frightening messages, for example gesturing a gun to a head or gesturing slitting a throat, or giving someone a dirty look. It’s very important to recognise the power of gesture bullying, sometimes adults can be dismissive of a child who reports that another child “is looking at me” but it’s a very easy way to maintain a constant level of threat against another child, and it’s so subtle it can be happening right under a teacher’s nose. Look out teachers! If a student comes to you wit this complaint, take it seriously. 
  • Exclusion Bullying:Leaving someone out, ignoring them on purpose. 
    This is mean and hurtful because it isolates the student from his/her peer group and it is very hard for the student to combat as it directly attacks their self-confidence, self esteem and self-image. It is very hard to prevent this. However, one successful way is by getting the students to empathise with each other.
  • Extortion Bullying:Getting someone to do something they don’t want to do. Threatening, Forcing, Blackmailing.
    Younger students for example first years are particularly vulnerable to extortion bullying. Demands for lunch money, possessions or equipment or food may be made alongside threats.
  • Cyber-Bullying:in an ever-more technologically advanced world, a new strain of bullying has emerged amongst students. Cyber-bullying utilises web pages, on-line gaming (on the PS4/XBOX),Snapchat, Facebook and text messaging to abuse, intimidate and attack others. Facebook and Snapchat are the most common ways of cyber-bullying.
  • Prejudiced based Bullying
  • Prejudice, or identity, based bullying targets young people because of who they are or who they are perceived to be. This can be on the grounds of age, disability, gender,  race, membership of the travelling community, religion or sexual orientation. Young people can also be bullied for being perceived to belong to one or more of these groups, or for being associated with a member of one or more of these groups. It includes Racist and Homophobic Bullying.


  • Unexplained bruising, cuts or damaged clothing.
  • Visible signs of stress/anxiety. Many students will often refuse to say what is wrong with them.
  • Unexplained changes in mood or behaviour e.g. becoming withdrawn; clinging; attention-seeking; aggressive behaviour toward brothers, sisters and parents.
  • Out-of-character behaviour in class e.g. disruptive, attention seeking due to a dare or  threat.
  • Deterioration in educational attainments; loss of concentration, interest and enthusiasm in school.
  • Bad attendance due to reluctance to go to school.
  • Lingering behind in school alter classes are over (parents may notice a child’s requests to be accompanied to and from school)
  • Increased requests for pocket money, or stealing money.
  • Loss of or damage to personal possessions or equipment
  • Artwork expressing inner turmoil
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • Attempted suicide

There are lots of myths about bullying, such as

  • “It’s a fact of life…everyone is bullied at some stage.” FALSE
  • “It toughens you up and prepares you for real life.” FALSE
  • “We all have to learn to stand up for ourselves…bullying helps us to do this.” FALSE
  • “There’s nothing you can do about bullying.” FALSE 


The truth about bullying

  • Not everyone is bullied but it’s estimated that around 30% of young people experience bullying at some stage.
  • Rather than toughening you up for life it can make you miserable and and it can kill any self-esteem you had.
  • Bullying can leave you feeling guilty for not standing up for yourself but it persists because it is almost impossible for the victim to stand up to the bully.

Who is likely to be involved?

  • Any pupil, through no fault of their own, may be bullied. Sometimes all it takes is for the student to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find that there are many student victimised through bullying, who are popular and socially well adjusted.  However, bullies will try to justify their actions by emphasising that the victim is different in some way, i.e. in terms of accent, clothes, physical appearance, size, social class, religion or by having learning difficulties. If there is no real difference pupils who bully may invent a reason for their behaviour.
  • Students who Bully are encouraged by the vulnerable and distressed reactions of their would-be victims. This gives them a “sense of power” and of “being in control” and makes them feel ‘cool’. Shy students are more likely to be targeted.
  • It is now recognised that many of the negative and unsympathetic characteristics that are often ascribed to victims may be the result of long-term bullying rather than a cause of Bullying. There are, of course, some students who unwittingly invite attacks by behaving in ways that cause tension and irritation in their immediate vicinity.  Such students, often referred to as “provocative victims”, may have inadequate social skills or learning difficulties.
  • Sadly however, research shows that no matter what the true origin of the bullying episode is,students who are bullied tend to see the cause of bullying in themselves and feel or imagine that there is something “wrong” with them.


As all bullying is aggression, a distinctive characteristic of students who bully is their aggressive attitude not only towards their peers but also towards adults, i.e. parents and teachers.

While constitutional factors play a part in aggressive behaviour, it is recognised that factors within the house, school and wider society influence the development of aggressive behaviour.


  • Lack of love, care and attention.
  • Too much freedom.
  • Inconsistent discipline. They feel like their parents do not care about them.
  •  Aggressive behaviour.
  • Physical abuse/punishment.


  • Inconsistent discipline/rules
  • Poor staff morale.
  • Inadequate supervision.
  • Curriculum that affords too few feelings of success and achievement. The school needs to have a positive and happy environment.

What to do if you’re being bullied

When you’re dealing with bullying it can feel like there’s nothing you can do about it.  You can convince yourself that trying to stop it might make things worse.

If it’s happening in school, telling a teacher maybe the last thing you want to do. Will your parents freak out and make a big fuss about it?

Everyone has the right to live, work, study and play in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence.

No one deserves or asks to be bullied and you certainly shouldn’t go through it on your own. Don’t forget that. There are things you can do about it.

Asking someone for advice

Telling someone else is really important. If you feel threatened or you think you might be in danger. Don’t keep it to yourself.

You’re not giving in and there’s nothing weak about reporting it or asking for advice. Anyone would need help with bullying.

If you’re dealing with bullying – be it verbal, physical, online or on your phone – it can really help by telling someone and asking for advice.

This can take a bit of courage, but you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel just by getting it off your chest.

Asking for support is actually a pretty brave move. Not sure what to say or how it could help? 0831266bb2aa10f3b7a491a1070b0a0f

Who to ask

There are loads of people who might be able to help. Talk to your friends, or to older brothers or sisters if you have them. They might’ve been through this stuff and will understand.

If it’s happening in school, think of a teacher you trust. Teachers and counsellors are specially trained in these situations. It’s their job to help.

Also, it’s good for the school to know it’s happening. There might be other people going through it and they need to figure out how to prevent it.

So think about it as helping other people.

Talking to family

It’s understandable you might be worried your parent or guardian will completely explode if you say anything and run down to the school screaming their head off.

We can’t say it won’t happen, but remember they want to help, and they actually might.

They’re also probably more clued in than you imagine, so explain to them if you don’t want them to do that and they might well get it.

They could have suggestions you had never even thought of. Even if you don’t want them to do anything, it lightens the load, and that in itself is pretty good.

If it’s getting you down

If dealing with bullying is getting you down and affecting your day-to-day life, there are loads of people who can help, listen and support you.

Tips for getting help

  • If you’re worried about speaking to someone, take a friend with you. If you don’t feel like you can talk about it out-loud or face-to-face, write it down or put it in an email.
  • Talk to whoever you tell about what they’re planning to do. They might have a responsibility to act if they’re a teacher or counsellor and they’re worried about your safety, so make sure you check with them. They should run all of this by you first. Be clear about what you want and don’t want to happen.
  • If you don’t feel as if you’re being taken seriously, or if no action is taken, it doesn’t mean what’s happening is OK. You were right to bring it up. Tell someone else and keep at it until something changes.

Dealing with bullying can be really tough. It affects your self esteem and your confidence, and it can end up affecting your work and your relationships too.

It’s really important to do something about it. If you feel you need a hand dealing with the impact of it, speak to someone like a therapist/counsellor to help you work on these feelings.

Working it out yourself

Always ask for help when you are being bullied but you can also decide to help yourself also.

Here’s some ideas that might help with this:

  • Be confident and assertive

People who hassle other people usually set their sights on someone who seems nervous or unsure of themselves because they think they won’t stand up to them.

The old “turn the other cheek” doesn’t really work. Walking away and trying to ignore can still be the reaction that the person bullying wants to happen.

Being confident about who you are can actually be your best defence. Stand firm and look them in the eye.

Let it be known that you don’t think is OK. Even if you don’t feel it, as the not-so-old saying goes, “fake it ’til you make it”.

Suggestions for using your confidence to deal with bullying:

  • Tell them to give it a rest/leave you alone. Don’t be aggressive, just be calm and sure of yourself.
  • Be assertive and confident. Look them in the eye and keep your body language firm.
  • Be nice – killing them with kindness can throw them right off track.

Selena Gomez recently released a new single called ‘Kill em with kindness’. She wrote this song as a response to her bullies. She was badly bullied during the summer for her weight.

  • Use humour – it can throw them off.
  • Use positive self talk tell yourself you’re a better person than all that. Don stoop to their level. You are a better person than they are.
  • Have a mantra – a saying or a statement that you repeat to them, like “whatever” or “well, if that’s what you think”. This can make you feel confident enough to just block them out (could be a line from a song or a film, whatever works).

    Remember it does not matter what they think about you, it what you think about yourself, that matters!

    Also remember there are people who accept you for you who are. They are the ones that matter.

Use visualisation

This might sound daft and it won’t work for everyone, but it can keep you from getting overwhelmed. Picture yourself as being miles taller than whoever’s bullying you, or imagine them in some ridiculous costume. This can help you realise they’re only human, and probably not as tough as they make out.

Stay positive

It can be hard to remember your good points when someone is doing their best to put you down. However, try to think of all the things you’re good at and proud of and stuff that makes you laugh.

You are amazing, never forget that!

Some of the world’s brightest, funniest and most talented people get a hard time when they’re young. Remember this will pass, and loads of people get through it and go on to do amazing stuff with their lives.

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Safety in numbers

You’re safer in a group, so hang out with other people when you can. If you’re by yourself and worried about being hassled or feel threatened, be aware of places nearby where there’ll be other people.

Moving on

Sometimes no matter how you or other people try to resolve a bullying situation, there might be no real solution other than to move school or change your job. This can seems like a massive deal, but sometimes making a fresh start is actually the simplest way forward.

This isn’t always a possibility and it’s not the first option. When it’s the right thing to do it can actually be the best decision you ever make. You’re not giving up up, just moving on.

Parents can sometimes be resistant to the idea of moving school, but talk to them about it and explain how you feel. That way you can figure out what your options are.

Some great organisations that deal with bullying are:

Sticks and Stones Anti-bullying Programme™ is Ireland’s leading award winning anti-bullying programme for schools, primary and post-primary. They believe that every child should be able to fulfil his or her potential free from the damage that bullying causes. They offer a Whole School Approach to addressing bullying in Irish schools, primary and secondary.

Here is their website – http://www.sticksandstones.ie/

Their programme elements can be taken individually or preferably together.

Sticks and Stones Anti-bullying Programme™ offers a three strand approach for the whole school community


Look at Reach out to inform yourself about bullying. Click on the inform yourself tab and then click on bullying. http://ie.reachout.com/inform-yourself/bullying-and-personal-safety/what-to-do-if-youre-being-bullied/?gclid=CPrLiNuH48gCFWGr2wod6y4M-g

reach out

ISPCC-Always here for children- The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) is Ireland’s oldest and most well-known children’s charity.  The ISPCC has a long, proud history of service delivery and advocacy on behalf of children.


Screen-Shot-2014-02-25-at-16.18.52-646x900  Niall Horan from One Direction

ELLIE+FOR+WEB Elle Goulding (singer)

Barnados facts about bullying



Stop the Bully Ireland is an anti-bullying service which empowers people at all ages with the tools to effectively deal with bullying. Bullying in Ireland has become a serious concern . If you are a parent in turmoil about a bullying situation, a teenager who is having difficulty with others or a school who wants a program to educate, empower and really help their students then we can help you. Stop the Bully is the brainchild of one of Ireland’s leading anti-bullying figures Pat Forde. Pat has worked with bullying targets, families and schools all over Ireland empowering them with the skills and knowledge to effectively deal with bullying situations and also improve confidence, assertiveness and self-esteem.Pat Forde is a leading figure in the on-going anti-bullying debate in Ireland and has featured on RTE’s award winning television series Bullyproof and is a regular contributor to media debates on the subject. http://stopthebully.ie/

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Anti-bullying Ireland website



On Tuesday 27th April 2015 AntiBullyingPro invited young people from across Ireland to Facebook’s European Headquarters to celebrate Anti-Bullying work in their schools and communities. This is their stories.

Anti-Bullying Ambassador Marcus Butler visits Newbridge College, Newbridge, County Kildare (April 27th 2015)

Do the people of Dublin think Bullying is a problem?

Dance group Diversity & Anti-Bullying Ambassadors stand up to bullying!

#ListenUpYouBullies Listen Up You Bullies, we’re the Anti-Bullying Team!

Anti-bullying dance

Anti-Bullying Ambassador and Pop Artist Tich’s tune provides the backdrop for this amazing anti-bullying performance by student Anti-Bullying Ambassadors at Springwell Community College.

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Anti-Bullying-Slogans-for-Kids   images (12)



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taylor swift

Here is a song by One Direction. This song portrays how when you have some people that love you, no-one else can DRAG YOU DOWN!

Here is a song by Katy Perry called ‘Firework’. Fireworks is a very beautiful song that has a very powerful meaning. This song talks about revealing your true self to the world instead of keeping it a secret. It tells us not to be afraid of what we have and who we really are but to be proud of it. SHOW IT OFF! You are worth more than you think. You are an original. You cannot be replaced! Be proud of who you are and ‘own the night like the 4th of July’.  You are your own person and every person is amazing in their own individual way. 

Selena Gomez – ‘Who says’. Be proud of who you are. Do not listen to anyone that says anything negative about you. As Selena sings,  ‘I would’nt want to be anyone else. I am no beauty queen, I am just beautiful me’.

Here is a positive song about loving yourself by Hailee Steinfield. Be proud of who you are and never let anyone change that. 

Another song by Katy Perry called ‘Roar’.

‘ROAR’ celebrates the idea of being against the ropes in life until you make contact and come out the victor! Lyrically, the singer extends a boxing metaphor throughout and borrows from an ’80s rock song.

“I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire / ‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR / Louder, louder than a lion / ‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me ROAR.”

‘Eye of the Tiger’ is a song by Survivor, which was huge in the ’80s and used in ‘Rocky III.’ It focuses on triumphing over anything and anyone in life that hurts you. The lion is the king/queen of the jungle, and Perry is using that metaphor to the fullest. But it’s so easy to relate to, and that’s why fans have responded so passionately.

Taylor Swift – ‘Shake it off’. This song does not need an introduction. One of the most famous songs of this year. SHAKE OFF any criticism and move on. Do not let it affect you!

One thought on “What is bullying? What to do about bullying?

  1. Pingback: Rap is poetry. | Ms O Reilly's Education blog

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