The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF) defines bullying as the repeated use of power by one or more persons intentionally to hurt, harm or adversely affect the rights and needs of another or others.

Bullying is a form of unacceptable behaviour, but not all unacceptable behaviour can be considered bullying. Bullying usually has three key elements:

  • It is repeated behaviour that happens over a period of time
  • It involves an imbalance of power
  • It is intentionally hurtful behaviour

All unacceptable behaviour must be challenged, whether it is bullying or not.

There are many different ways that bullying behaviour can be displayed. This could include:

  • Being called nasty names, teased, made fun of, threatened or put down
  • Being hit, kicked, punched, tripped up or knocked over
  • Having belongings stolen or damaged
  • Having rumours or gossip spread about you or people talking about you behind your back
  • Being left-out, excluded or isolated
  • Being forced to do something you don’t want to do or know that is wrong

Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying is bullying behaviour that is displayed through mobile/smart phones or the internet. This could include:

  • Hurtful, embarrassing or threatening material posted online (eg. on social network websites)
  • Nasty messages sent as texts, emails or other websites or apps
  • Being excluded from an online game
  • Fake profiles on a social network to make fun of others

For more information, click here.

Avoid Labels

The term bullying is highly emotive, often causing great anxiety, fear and shame to both the children involved and their families. None of us wants to hear that our child has been bullying others, however if this is the case it is important that we concentrate our disapproval on the behaviour, not the child.

For that reason, we should avoid using the word ‘bully’ to describe a child. To call a child a bully is to label the child, not his or her behaviour. It suggests that it is something that they are, as opposed to reflecting the unacceptable behaviour that they have engaged in. Our problem is not with the child, but rather with his or her behaviour.

We must help them to understand why their behaviour is unacceptable, recognise the impact that it is having on another or others and support them to identify ways that they can rectify the situation.


At NIABF we use the terms:

  • A child/young person experiencing bullying behaviour
  • A child/young person displaying bullying behaviour