Bullying online or at school

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Bullying online or at school

Bullying is never ok. In the most serious cases, bullying is treated as a crime in Victoria. This includes bullying over the internet or through a mobile phone.

If you are being bullied at school, you can take action to stop it.

Schools have a responsibility to make you feel safe. Most schools have policies about bullying.

What is bullying?

Bullying is when someone behaves in a way towards another person or group of people to:

  • upset or hurt them
  • damage their property, reputation or acceptance by others.

This includes behaviour through the internet or mobile. This is called cyberbullying. It is illegal and is just as serious as other types of bullying. It can sometimes be even more damaging than face-to-face bullying because electronic communication is fast and can spread easily.

Bullying is usually repeated behaviour and may continue over a number of days, weeks, months or years.

It can happen anywhere. Anyone can be a bully, like a teacher, student, family member or someone you’ve had a close relationship with.

Types of bullying

There are different types of bullying:

  • direct physical – this means the bully hurts your body, doing things like hitting, tripping, pinching, pushing or kicking you. It can also mean the bully steals or damages things that belong to you
  • direct verbal – this means the bully speaks to or about you in a mean and hurtful way, like teasing or calling you names that may be racist or homophobic, or spreading rumours about you
  • indirect – this includes things that the bully does to upset, exclude or embarrass you, like leaving you out of a game on purpose, mimicking you, using rude body language, playing nasty jokes, texting, emailing you unwanted messages or using chat rooms to upset you.

Cyberbullying is online and includes:

  • someone making threats to another person or group of people online or using email, texting or instant messaging
  • someone tricking another person or group of people about his or her identity online
  • online stalking (stalking is when someone repeatedly does things that make you feel scared)
  • spreading personal information or secrets online or using email, texting or instant messaging
  • bombarding another person or group of people with offensive messages online or using email, texting or instant messaging.

What you can do

If someone is bullying you, you can take action to stop it.

Make a list of all the things that have happened and when they happened, who was involved and who may have seen it.

If you’re experiencing cyberbullying, save any messages you receive. You may be able to block the sender’s messages yourself, or get your internet service provider to help you.

See a doctor if you’re hurt or stressed, and tell the doctor why.

If the bullying is happening at school, talk to a teacher, the school counsellor or the school principal about what they can do. Be prepared to name the bully.

Ongoing bullying or harassment could also be stalking. You may have a right to apply to a court for an intervention order to stop the behaviour.

How to stay safe online

There are also things you can do to stay safe online.

Protect your personal information

Don’t put any personal information online that can be used to identify you. Use a screen name rather than your full name. Keep your address, phone number, where you go to school and your date of birth private.

Use strong passwords

Make sure you use strong passwords for your email and social media (use a combination of letters and numbers that is hard for someone else to guess). Use a different password for each account. Change your passwords regularly and don’t tell anyone else what they are – not even your friends.

Keep your social networking private

It’s hard to keep social networking private. Remember, any information and photos that you put online can be easily shared, without you knowing about it.

Limit who can see your profile and your photos and information. Most sites are not private to start with, but once you set up an account you can change the settings to stop people you don’t know from seeing your personal information.

Don’t just rely on privacy settings. Social networking sites change all the time and what was ‘private’ one day can be made public the next.

More information

For more information, see the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner website.

Youthlaw provides information on how the law can protect you from cyberbullying and bullying at school and where to get help.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with discrimination, harassment and bullying.

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