Bullying is behaviour that hurts someone else – such as name calling, hitting, pushing, spreading rumours, threatening or undermining someone.

It can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally.

Bullying that happens online, using social networks, games and mobile phones, is often called cyberbullying. A child can feel like there’s no escape because it can happen wherever they are, at any time of day or night.

Bullying includes:

  • verbal abuse, such as name calling and gossiping
  • non-verbal abuse, such as hand signs or text messages
  • emotional abuse, such as threatening, intimidating or humiliating someone
  • exclusion, such as ignoring or isolating someone
  • undermining, by constant criticism or spreading rumours
  • controlling or manipulating someone
  • racial, sexual or homophobic bullying
  • physical assaults, such as hitting and pushing
  • making silent, hoax or abusive calls
  • online or cyberbullying.

Boy on bed with head in hands

What is online or cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is an increasingly common form of bullying behaviour which happens on social networks, games and mobile phones. Cyberbullying can include spreading rumours about someone, or posting nasty or embarrassing messages, images or videos.

Children may know who's bullying them online – it may be an extension of offline peer bullying - or they may be targeted by someone using a fake or anonymous account. It’s easy to be anonymous online and this may increase the likelihood of engaging in bullying behaviour.


Cyberbullying can happen at any time or anywhere - a child can be bullied when they are alone in their bedroom - so it can feel like there’s no escape.

There were over 12,000 counselling sessions with young people who talked to Childline about online issues last year

Explanation:12,328 counselling sessions with young people who contacted Childline for support and advice on online issues. This included online sexual abuse, online bullying and online safety.

See Indicator 9 in How safe are our children? 2017.

View trend graph Number of Childline counselling sessions about online safety and abuse (PNG).

Cyberbullying includes:

  • sending threatening or abusive text messages
  • creating and sharing embarrassing images or videos
  • 'trolling' - the sending of menacing or upsetting messages on social networks, chat rooms or online games
  • excluding children from online games, activities or friendship groups
  • setting up hate sites or groups about a particular child
  • encouraging young people to self-harm
  • voting for or against someone in an abusive poll
  • creating fake accounts, hijacking or stealing online identities to embarrass a young person or cause trouble using their name
  • sending explicit messages, also known as sexting
  • pressuring children into sending sexual images or engaging in sexual conversations.

Online safety

We’ve teamed up with O2 to help you keep children safe when they're using the internet, social networks, apps, games and more.
Online safety advice

Sexting

How to talk to children about the risks of sexting - and what you can do to protect them
What you can do about sexting

Signs, indicators and effects

Find out more about the signs, indicators and effects of bullying and cyberbullying
Spotting signs of bullying and cyberbullying

Make a donation today

This Christmas, a child will contact Childline every 25 seconds. Help us be there when they’re ready to break their silence.

Donate now

Help and advice for professionals

Library catalogue

We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.

Search the library

Our research and resources on bullying and cyberbullying

Read our research reports, briefings and leaflets about bullying and cyberbullying.

See our research and resources

Information Service

Our free service for people who work with children can help you find the latest policy, practice, research and news on child protection and related subjects.

For more information, call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Submit an enquiry

Safeguarding children

What organisations and groups that work with or come into contact with children should do to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.
Find out more