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This section is for young people who are concerned about bullying. Maybe you are being bullied or a friend is, or you have become involved in some type of bullying yourself?

The information here will help you to understand bullying as well as your rights and how you can get help. It’s important that you can understand the effects of bullying and figure out ways of getting help and stopping the problem.

‘Bullying is repeated aggression, verbal, psychological or physical, racial, sexual or relational, conducted by an individual or group against others.’ Cool School Anti Bullying Programme

Check out the Finding Help page for contact details of organisations, websites and help lines that provide information, advice and support.


If you are being bullied, you are not alone. Bullying is a common problem and help is available. All bullying is wrong and it is important that you talk about the problem with someone you can trust.

Did You Know?

Bullying is a common problem among teens in Ireland. In September 2010, The Irish Independent newspaper reported that 70% of teens have experienced some kind of bullying. Verbal bullying was reported as the biggest problem (name calling, teasing or taunting).

Other types of bullying reported were ‘exclusion bullying’ ­– deliberately isolating or leaving someone out – and cyber bullying – using phones or the internet to bully someone.

What are my rights?

No one should have to put up with bullying.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which Ireland signed up to in 1992) provides many rights to all children and young people. It says that you have the right:

  • To be protected and live free of violence, abuse or harm.
  • To be treated with dignity and respect.
  • To be free from discrimination.

For more information on your rights, check out this Unicef document.

What is bullying?


  • Bullying is when someone is repeatedly picked on or treated unfairly by another person or group of people. It usually involves emotional or physical harm and may happen in school, in youth groups, in the home or over the internet.

  • Bullying often happens when adults aren’t around, but can just as easily happen when they are. The adults may simply not know what is going on because it is kept hidden.

  • Sometimes adults can bully young people or children. This is very difficult, because we expect adults to be fair but, unfortunately, some adults are not.

If you are being bullied, remember, you are not alone. Bullying is a common problem and help is available. All bullying is wrong and it is important that you talk about the problem with someone you can trust.

A: Bullying involves repeatedly harming someone – emotionally, physically or both. It can involve:

  • Physically hurting such as shoving, tripping, pinching or ‘mess fighting’ in an aggressive way.

  • Disrespecting or teasing someone about their race, culture, religion or sexual orientation. This is targeting someone based on their ethnic background, skin colour, beliefs, values or who they may be sexually attracted to. This is discrimination.

  • Spreading rumours, making cruel jokes or sending malicious emails or text messages. This includes things posted on social networking sites like Facebook. Check out the section on cyberbullying below, for more info and tips about this.

  • Excluding someone from a group or encouraging others to leave someone out. Sometimes excluding someone can happen in ways that may not seem particularly obvious, for example, asking opinions in a group but always leaving one person out, or raising your eyes to heaven when someone talks and giving the message that what they say is not important.
  • Being insincere or fake with someone – pretending to like them and then laughing behind their back.

  • Daring or forcing someone to do something they don’t want to.

  • Threatening by using actions like glaring, fist clenching or making sounds to cause confusion or upset.

  • Jeering at someone if they’re doing well in school or struggling with subjects.

  • Damaging, hiding or stealing property.

  • Demanding money or items while making threats.

  • Laughing when someone is being bullied by another. Standing on the sidelines is taking part in bullying.

  • Sexual bullying ­– forcing someone to do things of a sexual nature that they do not want to do. Check out the section below on sexual bullying.

  • Bullying doesn’t just happen at school, it can happen in any place where there are two or more people. A person who bullies could be a friend, a family member, a boyfriend / girlfriend, someone in a position of authority or someone who you think you should be able to trust.

‘Sometimes people say “sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you”. This isn’t true. Names do hurt. A lot! Sometimes you can hear the words in your head long after it’s happened. It can be hard to forget what people say about you and the way people can laugh at you. You just have to try your best not to believe any of it is true.’ Carly, 13

A: There can be a number of reasons why people may choose to bully:

  • They feel bad abut themselves and use bullying to make them feel in control or powerful.
  • Sometimes people who bully do it because someone else is bullying them.
  • There may be anger, aggression or violence in their home or neighbourhood.
  • They are jealous by nature and are unaware of the hurt and fear they are causing.
  • They have poor social skills and do not know how to solve problems in a fair way.
  • They lack in self awareness and empathy (understanding the feelings of others).
  • They are caught in a cycle of bad behaviour and they do not know how to change.
  • They are unhappy, angry or depressed.

A: No, bullying is not a part of growing up. It is a serious problem.

Have you tried talking to someone but they said things like:

  • You’re making a big deal about it.
  • It’ll toughen you up.
  • It’s a part of life.
  • Just ignore them.
  • It couldn’t be THAT bad?

If you are being bullied, then it is bad and it is a big deal

Life always has its ups and downs and some problems, if ignored, do pass. Disagreements among friends, changing friendships and experiencing a range of feelings is a part of growing up – we all have good days and bad days. But when most days seem like bad days or problems don’t go away this is a bigger issue and you need help.

When you talk to an adult about this serious problem, choose a time when you know they are able to listen and give you their full attention. If the adult is busy or distracted and there is a lot going on, your problem may not be fully heard. It is important that you persist and make yourself heard.

Go to the section on what can I do below for ideas. If you don’t get a helpful response from an adult you are talking to, then try to think of someone else who will listen.

How does bullying affect people?

A: If you are being bullied you might:

  • Feel anxious, depressed, lonely or insecure and feel like crying a lot.

  • Be unable to concentrate in class.

  • Feel angry and wonder why this is happening to you.

  • Regularly end up in physical fights or arguments while trying to defend yourself.

  • Feel afraid to go to school and nervous if you’re on your own.

  • Think the problem is relentless and wonder if it will ever stop.

  • Feel lonely, isolated and avoid group situations.

  • Spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to do or where to go to avoid being harassed.

  • Think your parents would be worried or upset if you told them.

  • Notice that your health is suffering such as changes in your appetite, difficulty sleeping or tension headaches.

  • Feel afraid to check text messages or emails or look at social networking sites like Facebook in case there’s another cruel message about you.

  • Start to think that maybe the insults and taunts are true and wonder if it’s your own fault.

  • Have mood swings with a range of feelings from loneliness to anger.

  • Wish you could talk to someone but you are not sure what you want to say.

  • No longer enjoy the things you used to enjoy and drop out of activity groups or clubs.

  • Feel trapped, helpless, withdrawn and like no one understands.

  • Notice that these feelings are causing you to be unhappy at home and you are feeling moody or short tempered with your parents/carers, brothers or sisters.

‘Some kids who are bullied believe it’s their fault. They think there is something wrong with them and they are worth picking on.’ Evan, 16

‘… but, don’t believe what they are saying. Believe in yourself. No-one deserves to be treated like that. Bullying is bad… it makes you feel bad ­– but YOU are not bad – it’s the bullying that’s bad – not you!’ Paul, 15

If you are feeling any of these things remember you are not alone and it is not your fault. There is help available. Bullying is a serious problem and all of the feelings that you have are to be expected. It’s time to talk about the problem and get help.

Find someone who you can trust and who will listen to you.

A: Long-term bullying can lead to depression and feelings that you are worthless. Some of these effects can last for a long time, even into adulthood. A person who is bullied may become an adult who finds it hard to trust others, has problems making or keeping friends and lacks in confidence or self-worth.

If you have been bullied long term you may need specialised help from someone like a counsellor or therapist. Talk to someone as soon as possible. A parent or your family doctor will be able to help you find someone who can support you with your feelings of depression, stress or anxiety.

During times of depression, sadness, stress or emotional anxiety, some people may ‘self harm’ (e.g. self cutting, abusing alcohol) or they may feel suicidal. This is very serious. If this is happening for you, you need help as soon as possible.

A: Even if you think no one understands what you are going through, remember there is help available for you.

The first thing you should do is talk to someone about the self harming and the feelings you are having. Talk to a friend, family member or someone you know you can trust. Feeling depressed or stressed is not uncommon and when you talk about the problem you may feel a sense of relief. Even just talking about it can help.

You can link in with your school counsellor or doctor for advice also. Your GP (general practitioner – family doctor) can give advice about counselling services in your area.

Do you know someone who is self harming or talking about suicide?
  • Contact their family or close friends as soon as possible as they may be unaware that this is happening. This is a serious issue and urgent help is needed for the person.
  • If you are with someone who has self harmed you should immediately go to the A&E department of the nearest hospital.


It is important that you look after yourself at this time and take the right steps for you. Some of the tips in our Well Being section will also be helpful for you.

What am I being bullied?

A: You probably ask yourself this question often. Why are they picking on me?

Some teenagers bully others because they are jealous, they have problems with anger, they are being bullied themselves or they have low self esteem and want to feel in control or that they have some kind of power.

Some young people are bullied for no particular reason, simply because they may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Someone who wants to bully will pick out something to be critical about. They may make cruel comments about:

  • Your weight
  • Your clothes
  • Your family
  • Your looks
  • Who you fancy
  • If you’re popular
  • If you’re smart and doing well at school
  • If you have a disability e.g. Aspergers, ADHD
  • If you’re a different religion, culture or colour to the person bullying
  • If you wear glasses or have a hearing aid
  • If you have health problems
  • Your sexual orientation or gender identity

Whatever it is, the person bullying will pick out something to try and ‘push your buttons’. It’s probably something that most other people don’t even notice or think about but for some reason, the person bullying uses it to target you.

For some people, the things they do or say can attract someone who bullies. Someone who brags or boasts about things may draw the attention of someone else who is jealous. Boasting can sometimes rub people up the wrong way. If you are proud of an achievement, remember to be modest about it. You can take pride in what you have done without making a big deal about it. Celebrate your achievements with people who are important to you – your friends and your family.

Whatever the reason, bullying is not fair and it’s not your fault.

What can I do?


  • Walk away from conflict situations.

  • If you’re scared try not to show it. Stay calm.

  • Talk to your parents or an adult you can trust. It usually takes an adult to step in to stop bullying.

  • Talk to your friends and tell them what’s going on. They can help by listening and by being there with you if bullying is happening.

  • Report the bullying to a teacher or school counsellor.

  • Try to remember and write down details – dates, times when things happened, who was involved. Describe what happened and what was said.

  • Try not to fight back or show you are angry. If the person knows they are getting to you, they may keep doing it.

  • It is perfectly normal to feel like crying but, if you can, try your best to hold it in. Your tears will probably only satisfy the person bullying. It is better to release your feelings in a private place with someone who cares about you, like a friend or family member.

  • Stay in a group as much as possible.

  • Spend time doing things that you enjoy to keep your mind off the situation. Enjoy your hobbies and being with your friends.

  • If you can, change your routes or times for walking from or to school.

  • Try not to give a reaction. People who bully may get bored if you appear calm and like it’s not bothering you.

  • Sometimes cracking a joke or laughing can help to defuse a situation.

  • Try to look confident, hold your head up high, make eye contact with people and walk with confidence. People who bully are less likely to target someone who looks confident.

  • Don’t resort to violence, it will only cause more problems.

  • Don’t suffer in silence, get help as soon as possible.

  • Be as specific as you can when you describe the problem to an adult. Stick to the facts. If you need the support of friend, have someone with you when you talk about the problem.

  • Describe to the adult/teacher how this bullying is affecting you. It is important that they know how you are feeling at this time so they can find help for you.

  • If you feel that you are not being listened to, keep talking about the problem or go to someone else until you feel like you are really being heard.


  • Be clear when making requests or asking for things, say what you need or want.

  • When you can, plan ahead and think about what you are going to say or ask for.

  • Keep things short and to the point, e.g. ‘That’s my phone, I need it,’ ‘You are out of order, I don’t have time for this,’ ‘Get lost,’ or ‘I really don’t care what you think.’

  • Remember you can ask for things confidently without sounding angry.

  • When you say no, say it firmly.

  • Try not to get caught up in arguments and try not to be angry if you don’t get your own way.

  • If you are being physically attacked, get away as quick as possible. Shout out so others will hear you. Place your school bag in front of you for protection. If you are forced to the ground, try to roll into a ball to protect your head, stomach and chest.

  • Report physical assaults to someone in authority as soon as possible. If you are in school or at a club let adults know as soon as you can.

  • If you are being physically assaulted, it may be helpful to take lessons in self defence or martial arts. This may give you the confidence to protect yourself from physical harm, Remember though, use what you learn only as self defence. Always get away from a physical fight as soon as you can. If someone else gets hurt, this will be a problem for you as well as the injured person.

  • If someone is hounding you for an answer, you don’t have to give it straight away. Say ‘I need more time to think about this’ or ‘I haven’t made my mind up yet.’

  • Don’t agree to do things if you feel pressured or your gut instinct says no.

  • Look confident, stand up tall, look the person in the eye. If you are hunched up and look in victim mode they may keep pressing you until they get what they want

  • Use assertive statements like ‘You’re wasting my time’, ‘That’s your opinion’, ‘Whatever you think, it doesn’t bother me’ or ‘Do I look like I care?’ Practise saying this to yourself. When you practise it, you will feel more confident about saying it and then walking away in a real situation.

‘Write about what is happening. I remember in national school we had a ‘Bullying Box’ and kids wrote down stuff that was happening so the teachers would know. For me though, just writing about it kind of helped. It felt like I wasn’t carrying the problem in my head so much.’ Ciara, 14

A: It’s good to talk with friends, they may be able to support you, but adult help is needed in order to get the best results.

Most adults know a lot about bullying and how to overcome it. Even if they don’t know what to do straight away, they will want to help you sort it out. If you go to an adult who doesn’t know what to do, find someone else who does.

There is no need to be embarrassed as many people are bullied and we all need help at times. Talking about bullying is not ‘telling tales’ or ‘snitching’.

You have a right to be safe and free from harassment or attacks.

No one should be silent about bullying. It’s a big issue so don’t be scared about speaking out. The adults you talk with will most likely understand your worries. Trust that they will be discreet about the problem.

Say to whoever you choose to talk to if you’re scared about making the report and that you think the bullying will get worse when you report it. Adults should take this into account when they are dealing with it. When dealing with the person bullying, the adults may not need to say where the information has come from. Even if the person bullying does find out you made reports, you will be safer. People who bully thrive on secrecy and thinking they are getting away with it.

Chances are you are not the only person being bullied. When you speak out you are probably helping other people too.

For someone who bullies, secrecy is their best weapon. Breaking the silence is the most important part in overcoming or ending the bullying.


  • Bullying can happen to anyone.
  • It is not your fault.
  • There is nothing wrong with you.
  • No one should have to put up with bullying.
  • You don’t have to face this on your own.

A: The Department of Education recommends that all schools have an Anti-Bullying Policy in place. Bullying is a serious issue and should never be ignored. Information about your school policy should be available to you. If it’s not, ask for it.

Your school’s Anti-Bullying Policy may have information about types of bullying, your rights and responsibilities and what steps the school will take in dealing with bullying.

Your school may have a ‘Buddy System’ or a ‘Mentoring Programme’ where older pupils are trained in ‘listening skills’ and act as a support person for students who may need it.

Talk with your teacher or school counsellor about the problem you’re having.

Be sure to talk with your parents/carers also. If you feel you’re not getting enough help at school, your parents or another trusted adult may be able to help you with this.

A: While fighting back may seem like self defence, it could only make things worse for you. You are at risk of physical danger or of causing hurt to someone else.

Fighting back will not stop the problem. By becoming involved in fights, you are just involving yourself in anti-social behaviour. If you are physically assaulted by someone, defend yourself as much as you can, shout for help and get away from the situation as quickly as possible.

Bullying by adults

A: This is difficult as adults are role models and we expect them to do the right thing.

  • You have the right to speak up and say it when you think you are being treated unfairly.

  • If you are being bullied by an adult you will need to talk to someone about this as soon as possible.

  • If the bullying is happening in a group, e.g. a club or in a school, this will need to be reported to someone in a position of authority as this person may be bullying other teenagers too.

  • Talk to your parents or another adult who may be connected to this group.

  • Try not to be alone with this person, stay with other group members as much as possible. Other people in the group may also be able to support you when you want to report the bullying.


  • If you are being bullied by an older family member, e.g. a sister/brother, aunt or uncle, talk to a parent about this.
  • If the bullying is happening in your family and you are not sure what to do about it, talk to another adult outside of your family like a teacher/school counsellor or another relative.
  • Sometimes there can be problems at home such as domestic violence or drug or alcohol problems. During these times, young people may become the victims of anger or abuse. They may witness other people in the family being abused at home also. The information on coping with Domestic Abuse or Parental Drug or Alcohol Problems may be helpful for you. If there is violence in your family home, it is important that you are safe. There are people who can help you. Try talking to a teacher, youth leader, sports coach or another adult you know and trust.
  • You can also contact a Duty Social Worker in your local HSE health centre, the Gardaí or someone in your local family resource centre or community development project.

A: If you feel that a teacher regularly humiliates you, uses sarcasm, insults or makes negative comments about you, your appearance, background, personality or academic progress then this is a serious issue.

If you feel threatened or intimidated by a teacher, you will need to report this as soon as possible. Talk to your parents, the school counsellor, your year head or the school principal.

It may be helpful to bring a friend with you. If a teacher is bullying you, your classmates will certainly have noticed that something is happening. Ask them for their help.

Think about  

As you go through secondary school, the relationship you have with some teachers may be less formal than with others, some teachers may enjoy some joking and light-hearted slagging in the classroom. If everyone in the classroom joins in with this and the slagging involves all people equally, then this is okay. If you think you are being singled out though, then this is a problem.

Also, a teacher may make a joke about something and classmates who are bullying may use this comment as another thing to jibe about. The teacher may not realise that this light-hearted comment will be used by the people who are bullying.

If this is happening to you, you could discreetly say this to your teacher, ‘I know you were just joking with me in the classroom, but in the yard I’ve been getting a hard time.’

Most likely your teacher will be glad you spoke up about it and will try to understand things from your point of view. Probably the teacher will also want to help you deal with what’s happening, or suggest that you talk to the Guidance Counsellor.

Know what is not bullying

It is not bullying if a teacher criticises your work in a fair way or, if after you have done something wrong, your teacher puts in place some type of consequences for you such as extra homework or detention. Constructive criticism and discipline are a part of school life.

It is unfair if a student wrongly accuses a teacher of bullying just because they disagree or don’t like it when the teacher has to put rules in place.

Homophobic and sexual bullying

A: This is homophobic bullying. Homophobia is the hatred of or when people discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people (LGBT), or people they think may be LGBT. The term includes biphobia (hatred of bisexual people) and transphobia (hatred of transgender people).

Anti-gay graffiti, spreading rumours that someone is gay, being abusive, jeering or violence towards someone who is LGBT are all types of homophobia.

Sometimes people who bully may target another because they are LGBT. People who are heterosexual (sexually and emotionally attracted to someone of the opposite sex) can also be victims of homophobia because the people bullying think that they are LGBT.

What does transgender or ‘trans’ mean?

Transgender means someone whose gender differs from the one they were given at birth. Someone who is transgender may identify as male, female or feel that neither label fits. To express their gender, some transgender people may choose to change from their birth gender by changing their name or the way they dress. Others may choose to make a medical transition with the help of specialists who prescribe hormones and/or surgery.

Sometimes people use the word ‘gay’ in a casual manner to describe something they don’t like, e.g. ‘that car is so gay’. This homophobic language sends negative messages and could make people who are LGBT feel they don’t belong or there is something negative about being gay.

The victim of homophobic bullying can feel lonely and isolated. Because of homophobia, they might be afraid to talk to anyone about their sexual or gender identity. They may feel pressure to be in heterosexual relationships so bullying stops, hoping this will mean they are accepted by others.

Homophobia is just as serious as any other type of bullying. Everyone has the right to be treated equally and with respect.

Being LGBT is not just about physical attraction, it includes the basic need to be accepted, loved and loved in return. As with all close relationships, the relationships between people who are LGBT are private and personal.

If your friends have been bullying someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender you should call them up on it. Point out that what they are doing is wrong. Explain that saying ‘that’s gay’ is an offensive term.

Support the victim of the bullying by letting them know you disagree with it and do not want to be part of it. It is also important for teachers or supervisors to know about the bullying.

Breaking silence is the key to stopping it. Report the bullying.

A: Yes, this is called sexual bullying. It is wrong to put others under pressure to have sex or to do anything they aren’t happy about, this includes touching or being touched in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Both boys and girls can sexually bully another person. Sexual bullying doesn’t just happen in relationships, it can happen in groups of friends too. Check out the Q&A below for more information.

Sexual intimacy belongs in a relationship where there is respect, understanding and trust with both people feeling safe, valued and cared for.

You are entitled to say no and your feelings should be respected.

Be as assertive as you can and let your partner know that you are feeling under pressure. You may need to say this several times to get your point across. If the pressure continues, it may be time for you to get out of the relationship.

Even if you really like the other person, if they cannot respect your wishes this is not good enough and means your relationship is unhealthy.

In Ireland, the age which someone can legally have sex is 17. This is known as the age of consent. If you go to the website Before You Decide you can find more information about this law as well as advice and tips regarding sexual relationships


  • Touching you in a way you don’t want to be touched.

  • Asking you to touch in a way you feel uncomfortable with.

  • Forcing you to do anything against your will, in private or in a group.

  • Taking photos of you without your permission. For example, a classmate may take photos of you while in a changing room and then circulate these photos.

  • Sending you crude text messages or sexually explicit emails.

  • Targeting or name calling someone by referring to their sexuality, for example ‘queer’, ‘slut’, ‘lezzer’. See the Q&A above on homophobic bullying.

  • Spreading rumours about someone and talking about their sexual activity.

  • Breaking up with someone and telling people about private things of a sexual nature.

  • Making sexual comments about someone’s physical development, body shape or how they dress.

  • Making you watch sexually explicit movies or internet material. Asking you to look at books, magazines of a sexual nature when you don’t want to.

  • Grabbing someone physically and touching private areas. Giving a ‘wedgie’ (lifting someone up by their underwear and causing genital pain).

Having sex with someone without their consent or forcing someone to do something sexual against their will is a criminal offence. Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. You can find out more about this at Reach Out.

Being a bystander and helping others out

A: Some people stand by and watch bullying and people who bully love to have an audience. Those who laugh when someone is being harassed or picked on may as well be doing the bullying themselves as their laughter supports the bully. Others may see the bullying and disapprove of it but do nothing about it.

Ask yourself, have you ever thought some of these things…

  • It’s none of my business.
  • They won’t listen to me anyway.
  • It’s only a bit of fun.
  • I don’t want to get involved.
  • I don’t know any of those kids so it’s not my problem.
  • If I get involved maybe they’ll turn on ME.
  • Why should I help? No one else is.
  • Everyone’s laughing, I don’t want to say anything or they’ll laugh at me.
  • Why can’t he/she (the victim) just stand up for themselves?

Being a bystander is giving the message that bullying is ok and allows it to continue.

‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends’. Martin Luther King Jnr

A: Think about it from your own perspective. How would you feel if this was happening to you? If you were being bullied what would you want others to do to help you?

Be a friend, stand up for your own principles and do what you believe is right.

‘Last year, I remember laughing when a kid was being bullied. I thought it was easier to join in than to help out. Then it started happening to my little brother. I realised that kids who get bullied need the rest of us to stand up for them. If you’re not able to say something, you should walk away at least. You could make a report. Even an anonymous one. Write a note or something.’ Eoin, 15

If you see bullying, it’s important that you help out. It’s not just up to parents and teachers to sort out.

One of the best ways of ending and preventing bullying is when young people stand up for each other and say no to bullying.

  • Refuse to join in.
  • Stand up to the person bullying and tell them it’s wrong or to back off.
  • Support the person being bullied. Help them if they’ve been hurt.
  • Report it. Tell a teacher or another adult as soon as possible.

A: If a friend is being bullied they will need your help. Check out the section above on ‘What can I do?’ for more tips.

  • Encourage your friend to talk about it with a trusted adult.
  • Suggest that you can help when they make the report. You are a witness and can help describe what’s happening.
  • If your friend doesn’t want to make a report, you should. Be sure to explain that your friend is fearful.
  • Be supportive. Listen to your friend and tell them the bullying is wrong and needs to stop.
  • Encourage your friend to stay in a group wherever possible.


Breaking the silence is the best way of putting a stop to bullying.

‘Once, when I was being bullied, this older girl I hardly knew came over and told the bully to back off and cop on. There were a few other kids around and they heard. I think the bully just got really embarrassed. She never came near me after that. The girl who helped just walked off and that was that. It was kinda cool the way it happened.’ Sarah, 13



  • This is when instant messages, emails, text messages or webpages are used to spread rumours, make threats or harass. It can include written messages, photographs, videos or voice messages.

  • The people who are bullying may choose to set up ‘groups’ in an online social network. These ‘groups’ may be used to jeer at or target someone in a cruel way. The people who are organising this may remain anonymous.

  • Sometimes, people who use the internet may not be aware of its potential dangers. Someone may make a light-hearted joke or post online and it could develop into a bullying situation if others add cruel remarks or comments.

  • People who use technology to bully may say things online or by text that they would never say face to face. They need to know that they are responsible for their words and actions in cyberspace as well as in the real world. If it comes down to it, the source of the abuse, the computer or phone being used, can be identified by the Gardaí.

  • This type of bullying is just as harmful and upsetting as face to face bullying. Check out the above section ‘How does bullying affect people?’


  • Be careful online and remember that words have power.
  • Think about what you write or photos you add.
  • Ask yourself, could these words be picked up the wrong way or cause upset? Is this photo suitable for lots of people to see?
  • If you post something online and ‘comments’ or ‘chat’ becomes cruel, remove your posts so you are not part of a negative situation.
  • Help turn things around by pointing out if someone is being cruel. Apologise to the person if your own comments have led to harassment.


  • Tell someone. Talk to a parent, teacher, friend or someone you can trust.

  • Keep a log. While messages may be cruel, you will need to have some proof of what has been happening. This will be helpful if the guards or someone in authority need to help. If you don’t want to keep seeing the messages you could put texts in ‘saved messages’.

  • Forward emails onto the adult you have talked to.

  • If you are receiving abusive texts, give your phone to an adult to monitor for an evening or over a weekend.

  • Keep your details private and block people. Get a new phone sim and make your new number private.

  • If you are on a social network, change your ‘privacy settings’ so that your web pages are secure and only accessed by people you know. Check the privacy settings regularly as sometimes the network may change settings without notifying you.

  • Be careful about the passwords you use online. Keep this private. You could change your password every month or so to be extra safe.

  • If you know the user name of the person bullying, you can block them from your profile.

  • Start fresh by setting up a new email address, user name or profile. Ask someone for help if you’re not sure how.

  • If you have been getting nasty IMs (instant messages), change your online status to ‘hidden’ so other internet users will not know you’re online.

  • Don’t reply to abusive emails or texts. Giving a response may make the situation worse.

  • Don’t add people you don’t know to your list of online friends. Be wary of strangers online.

  • If you’re messaging a friend and something seems odd, it could be someone else who has hacked their details so just end the conversation.

  • Log off. You can choose to walk away by logging off or switching off. By doing this, you will feel in control of the situation.

  • Report it. If you are being bullied online, the service provider or network can give you information about what to do. Look for ‘Help Centre’ or ‘Report Abuse’. There will be advice about what you can do and how to report to the network provider.


  • Be prepared. It’s likely that your parents will be concerned and will want to take precautions.

  • Depending on your age and what’s been happening for you, taking a break from the mobile/PC may be the safest option for now.

  • If you are older, explain to your parents why it is important that you can use your phone and go online.

  • Talk with your parents and explain that you don’t want to be punished because of what is happening.

  • Suggest that you come to an agreement about being safe and what you should do when the bullying is happening (talk through ‘What can I do’ section above).

  • If your parents don’t know much about the internet or social networks show them how it works.

  • Explain about ‘Privacy Settings’, ‘Reporting Abuse’ and ‘Blocking’ people from your profile.


  • Talk to your friend. Explain that what they are doing is wrong. Let them know that what they are doing is bullying (they may not realise this).

  • Explain how serious this is and the effects it could have on the person they are bullying.

  • Let them know that there could be serious consequences for everyone involved.

  • Point out that bullying over the internet is just as serious as face to face bullying.

Check out Watch Your Space for more info, a short video and lots of tips about cyberbullying.

Friends, cliques and peer pressure

A: Being part of a group is an important part of growing up and helps you develop your relationship and communication skills. It helps you feel like you belong and gives you opportunities to learn about yourself and others.

In some friendship circles there may be one thing in common, for example an interest in a type of sport, fashion or music. People feel relaxed and welcome in the group.

Some young people may be part of several different types of groups as their interests grow or change.

Other groups or ‘cliques’ can have a strict membership code and may restrict people from joining. They may be more about being popular and the group itself may decide they are ‘cooler’ or better than others.

When people are in a clique, they tend to do everything together and may refuse to let other or ‘new’ people be part of their circle. There may be one person who seems to be the ‘leader’ and what he or she says goes.

People in cliques may jeer at others, humiliate people or choose to exclude. The ‘rules’ of the clique may be kept hidden from outsiders.


  • Not everyone in a clique bullies but there may be one ring leader who will choose to exclude others, spread rumours or target someone.

  • The others, who are the ‘followers’, may not be directly involved but instead they are a bystander to bullying and feel they have to follow the strict rules of the clique.

  • People in a clique may spread rumours about others or refuse to let someone be part of their circle. The clique may gang up on or target someone. They may be unfriendly to people outside of their circle and exclude others, giving the message that they are ‘not good enough’.

  • There may be some peer pressure within the clique with everyone having to follow the rules. An individual in a clique may feel under pressure to do things so they get the approval of the rest of ‘the gang’.

  • Someone with low confidence who knows that the clique is wrong may feel that they have to stay in the gang because, if they leave, they too may be bullied.

A: Maybe now that you have read about cliques, you realise that you are part of one.

Think about

  • Is your group based around a common interest, such as a hobby, activity or type of music?

  • Is it an open group where anyone with similar interests can join in?

  • Do you like being with the people in your group? Do you look on them as friends? Are they people who accept you for who you are? Do they openly accept others?

  • Can you speak your mind in the group and say what you really feel? Are the things that you say accepted and respected by others?

  • Are the people in your group fair? Are they treating people outside of the group in a fair way?

  • Do you feel good or bad about being part of this group?

  • Is it acceptable or okay for people to have mixed opinions, to change their mind and to act like an individual? Or do you feel under pressure to say what you think is the right thing (even if deep down you know it’s not)?

  • Is it okay for you to be part of other groups also?

  • Do people in the group come and go between different interest or hobby groups or does everyone have to stay in just one group?

In a ‘healthy’ friendship group:
  • You feel accepted for who you are.
  • You can have your own opinion.
  • You can enjoy different types of activities together and have a laugh.
  • There aren’t strict ‘rules’.
  • People are fair and respectful of others.  

If you think you have become part of a clique, maybe its time to leave it and find a group that has less rules and which is more fun to be part of. By leaving a clique, you will have opportunities to meet new friends and try out new things.

A: We are only having a laugh! So what is the difference between ‘joking’ and ‘jeering’?

There is a big difference between having a laugh with someone and taunting someone.


  • Is not meant in a hurtful way but instead is clever, witty or light-hearted.
  • Is joking among friends in equal measures. All people within the group take part and switch between making the joke or being joked about.
  • Stops if someone is upset or offended.
  • If teasing gets a bit over the top, the person teasing apologises for any hurt feelings.


  • Is one sided, with one person always being the butt of jokes or insults.
  • Is putting someone down in a hurtful, disrespectful way and trying to disguise it as a joke.
  • Means laughing at someone instead of with someone.
  • Causes fear and anxiety for the person being taunted.
  • Continues even when the person asks for it to stop or seems upset.

A bit of teasing, slagging or joking between people is fine but only if it is not meant to be hurtful and all people involved are laughing. If teasing turns into taunting then it needs to stop.

A: For all teenagers, feeling accepted and part of a group is important. Your peers (people the same age / school year / group) can influence you in many ways and you may have similar tastes in music, fashion or pastimes.

Your peers can be positive role models in your life, a friend who has goals and dreams may inspire you to have your own goals. Sometimes, however, within a group people can feel pressure to ‘fit in’. You may be pressured to break the rules or try something out, such as smoking or drinking alcohol.

Your friends should accept you for who you are and respect the positive choices you make.

With peer pressure, people will say things like ‘Come on, everyone’s doing it’ or ‘What are you afraid of? No one will find out.’ While you may feel the ‘pressure’, your peers should be able to accept it when you say no.

If you feel forced into something or threatened if you don’t join in then this is bullying. If you are excluded from a group because you won’t join in this is also a type of bullying.

Am I being a bully?

A: Some questions you can ask yourself.

  • Do you often use name calling or speak disrespectfully about people?

  • Do you often have a defiant or hostile attitude towards others?

  • Do you always have to be in control?

  • Are you often rough with people, e.g. pushing, shoving or ‘mess fighting’ in a rough way?

  • Do you get angry if things don’t go your way?

  • Are you often part of arguments or disagreements?

  • Do you lack empathy for others? (not thinking or caring about how they feel)

  • Do you laugh when someone gets hurt or embarrassed?

  • Do you dare or force people to do things they don’t want to?

  • Do you have a few close friends, but in larger groups people keep away from you?

  • Do you pressure people into giving you money or personal items or ‘borrow’ things but don’t give them back?

  • Do you often break the rules or push the limits?

  • Are you sometimes aggressive towards adults, e.g. your parents, teachers?

  • Do you send rude, embarrassing or threatening emails or text messages?

  • Do you spread rumours about people?

  • Do you make jokes about people based on their race, culture or who they fancy?

  • Do you stand on the ringside and laugh when someone else is being bullied?

‘Think about your brother or sister or a friend. Would you like them to be badly treated? What would your parents or grandparents think about how you are behaving? Think about now and the future. Do you want people to remember you as the bully from school?’ Thomas, 14

 If you answered yes to many of these things, you have probably been involved in bullying behaviour.


  • Recognise that your behaviour is wrong and unfair.
  • Apologise to him.
  • Show him that you have changed your ways by backing off or standing up for him if someone else is bullying.
  • Think about the effects of your behaviour. Go to the section above ‘How does bullying affect people?’
  • Take a look at yourself. Is this how you really want to be? Do you want to be labelled as a ‘bully’? Do you want other people to be in fear of you?

You may think you are popular among some people who laugh at your bullying behaviour. The truth is, those people are probably afraid of you too.

Talk to someone about what you’ve been involved in. A trusted adult like a parent or school counsellor may be able to help you in making a fresh start. Try to find new ways of managing anger – get active, develop positive friendships, talk to an adult about your feelings. Make a fresh start and try a new hobby so you can get to know new people.

If you are part of a clique, leave it and find a new friendship group.


It’s never too late to change.

Maybe there are difficulties for you right now?
  • Have you been feeling anxious, distressed or angry?
  • Is someone else bullying you?
  • Do you feel like you are caught in a cycle of negative behaviour?
  • Are there problems at home?

It’s important that you talk with someone and get some help. You could link in with your school counsellor or an adult you know and trust.


Someone who is passive may

  • Give the message that other people’s rights are more important than their own.
  • ‘Give in’ to things, even if deep down they don’t want to.
  • Say what they think other people want to hear instead of sticking to their own opinions.

Someone who is aggressive may

  • Behave like their rights are the most important.
  • Be unwilling to compromise with people.
  • Use words and actions that intimidate people.
  • Always have to win an argument or have things go the way they want.

Someone who is assertive

  • Has respect for others even if their views or ideas are different.
  • Feels confident about giving their own opinion.
  • Believes in fairness and equality.
  • Can say no if they disagree with something and explain why they have said no.

Think about how you approach people and the language you use. Sometimes people can use aggressive or hostile language without realising it.

Saying ‘Move it’ or ‘What’s your problem?’ could sound hostile. But saying ‘I need to get past’ or ‘Is there something wrong?’ sounds assertive without intimidating or scaring someone.

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