Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between harassment and bullying?

Harassment and bullying both involve behaviour which harms, frightens, threatens, demoralises, upsets or humiliates the victim.

Harassment is always linked to the Anti-discrimination Laws and will concentrate on gender, race, ethnic background, colour, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability.

Harassment may be a single incident or a series of incidents. However, bullying is repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect and by one or more persons which undermines the victim.


2. How is bullying different from any other aggressive behaviour between young people?

Bullying differs from other kinds of aggression between pupils in a number of ways, for example:

  • the negative behaviours are intentionally targeted at a specific individual. It is not an accident
  • the repetitive nature of bullying (it isn’t usually a onetime event)
  • the power imbalance between the pupils.


3. How do bullies select their targets?

Often children who are bullied have one or more of the following characteristics

They are perceived as:

  • different from their peers, e.g. being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses, a strong hair colour, different clothes, being new at school, or not being able to afford what other children can
  • weak or geeky, not physically strong enough to defend themselves,
  • depressed, anxious, or have low self esteem
  • less popular than others and have few friends
  • not getting along with others, seen as antagonising others for attention.

However, even if a child has these characteristics, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied.


4. What types of children are more likely to bully others?

  • Those that interact well with their peers, have social power, but are too anxious about their popularity, and like to dominate or take charge of others.
  • Those that are more isolated from their peers and may be depressed or anxious, have low self esteem, be less involved in school, have difficulty following rules, be easily pressured by peers, or not identify with the emotions or feelings of others.
  • Those that are aggressive or easily frustrated.
  • Those having less parental connection or having problems at home.
  • Those that who are easily pressured by friends who bully others.


5. How do bullies bully?

Bullying actions may be direct or indirect.

Direct bullying may include:

  • hitting, tripping, shoving, pinching, and excessive tickling
  • verbal threats, name calling, racial slurs, and insults
  • demanding money, property, or some service to be performed
  • submerging someone, stabbing, choking, burning, and shooting.

Indirect bullying is often more difficult to identify and may include:

  • rejecting, excluding, or isolating the victim
  • humiliating the victim in front of friends
  • manipulating friends and relationships
  • sending hurtful or threatening e-mail or written notes
  • blackmailing or terrorising the victim,
  • developing a website devoted to taunting or ranking,
  • degrading a victim and inviting others to join in posting, or
  • humiliating notes or messages.


6. Do boys and girls both bully?

Yes, the difference is that boys are usually more direct and more physical while girls tend to bully in more indirect ways, however, some bullies use both direct and indirect strategies. Ultimately, it is important to the bully to be able to choose methods that produce the most success.


7. My child is aware of bullying going on in school but has done nothing about it – what advice should I give?

Pupils who passively participate in bullying by watching may come to believe that the behaviour is acceptable. In fact research indicates that peers are present 85% of the time when bullying occurs and that witnesses to bullying develop a loss of their sense of security which can reduce learning.

Explain to your child that by being a bystander their passivity could be interpreted as condoning the action. They need to consider whether to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.

Remind your child that they should treat others the way they want to be treated and that if they stand up for someone when he or she needs it, when they need it, someone will stand up for them. Everyone has the right to be respected and the responsibility to respect others!

Bystanders are a powerful majority and can use their social power and personal actions to promote respect for themselves and others. There are a number of avenues open to them.

  • Walk away as paying attention to bullying makes the bully feel important. Watching gives a bully power.
  • Report the bullying to a responsible and caring adult. Bullying usually stops within 10 seconds after someone who is watching (a bystander) gets involved.
  • Express disapproval by not joining in the laughter, teasing, or gossip.
  • Campaign against bullying through school council and arranged activities (e.g. the school newsletter, the pupil handbook, school calendar, poster contests, a pupil watch programme, plays and productions, or suggestion boxes for safe, anonymous reporting).
  • They could encourage their group of friends to be friends with the victim. They could walk to school or home with him/her.