BBC Home
Explore the BBC


Teachers: PSHE:

Last Updated: Wednesday April 09 2008 16:36 GMT

What counts as bullying?




What counts as bullying? It's a good idea to start a lesson by asking this question. What you learn from the group's answers is very valuable in planning further teaching on this subject.

This lesson helps pupils consider what sort of behaviour counts as bullying. They can act out some scenarios based on what they decide, and also try a bullying quiz.

The quiz and drama content has been provided by Kidscape. Their website has a thorough set of resources to support teachers looking at issues around bullying. Click on the link in the green box.

Learning aims

Understand what's meant by some or all of these

  • Cyberbullying
  • Homophobic bullying
  • Racist bullying
  • Sexist bullying

Which of these counts as bullying?

Start by reading out these comments from the Newsround audience

Break into groups of three and ask pupils to make a list of things that count as bullying. As a starting point it's good to read out, or put on a whiteboard some definitions. Below are some from anti-bullying advice websites.

Get the group members to feedback their ideas. Build up a class list of what counts as bullying. Flag up anything important that you feel is missing from the list, explain why it would normally be included.

What is bullying? - URL links in green box on right

From the 'Bullying at school' pages on

You don't have to be physically beaten up or hurt to be a victim of bullying. Teasing, being threatened and name calling can all be classed as forms of bullying. There are lots of reasons why people are bullied. Some people are picked on because of their religion or race, whilst others are chosen because of their weight, the clothes they wear or because they're clever - things that no-one should be ashamed of.

From BBC Switch (new BBC service for teenagers)

Bullying takes many forms, like name-calling, hitting, spreading rumours, stealing, excluding people and turning someone's friends against them. You can also be bullied via abusive text messages or online.

Need2Know (DCFS funded website aimed at 13-19 year olds)

Bullying can mean doing or saying something that deliberately hurts, threatens or frightens someone. People who bully do so for all kinds of reasons. It can be because of things like race, religion or sexuality. It can even be because of the way someone looks or because they are bright and intelligent. Whatever the reason, it's important to remember that bullying is not normal. No one deserves to be bullied - simple as that.

From Bullying UK. Bullying includes:

  • People calling you names
  • Making things up to get you into trouble
  • Hitting, pinching, biting, pushing and shoving
  • Taking things away from you
  • Damaging your belongings
  • Stealing your money
  • Taking your friends away from you
  • Posting insulting messages on the internet or by IM
  • Spreading rumours
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Making silent or abusive phone calls
  • Sending you offensive phone texts
  • Bullies can also frighten you so that you don't want to go to school, so that you pretend to be ill to avoid them
The charity Kidscape say

Bullying is not always easy to define. A child may encounter bullying attacks that are:

  • Physical. Pushing, kicking, hitting, pinching and other forms of violence or threats
  • Verbal. Name-calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, persistent teasing
  • Emotional. Excluding (sending to Coventry), tormenting, ridicule, humiliation Of course, a bully will often rely on a mix of these techniques, and include other children in the bullying, either as witnesses or active participants. Repeated attacks may escalate in intensity

Racist Bullying (also from Kidscape)

Any hostile or offensive action against people because of their skin colour, cultural or religious background or ethnic origin. It can include:

  • Physical, verbal or emotional bullying
  • Insulting or degrading comments, name calling, gestures, taunts, insults or 'jokes'
  • Offensive graffiti
  • Humiliating, excluding, tormenting, ridiculing or threatening
  • Making fun of the customs, music, accent or dress of anyone from a different culture
  • Refusal to work with or co-operate with others because they are from a different culture
Homophobic bullying - (see the DCFS publication 'Safe to Learn')

Motivated by prejudice against someone's real or perceived sexuality. It can also be targeted against pupils who are seen to be 'different' in some other way, for example, because they may be considered shy by other pupils. It can therefore be experienced by all pupils regardless of their sexuality.

Direct and indirect bullying
Ross, P.N. (1998). Arresting violence: A resource guide for schools and their communities. Toronto: Ontario Public School Teachers' Federation.

Direct bullying involves a great deal of physical aggression such as shoving and poking, throwing things, slapping, choking, punching and kicking, beating, stabbing, pulling hair, scratching, biting and scraping

Indirect bullying (social aggression) is characterized by threatening the victim into social isolation. This isolation is achieved through a wide variety of techniques, including spreading gossip, refusing to socialize with the victim, bullying other people who wish to socialize with the victim, and criticizing the victim's manner of dress and other socially-significant markers (including the victim's race, religion, disability, etc).

Online quiz

If you have class internet access the group can try this online bullying quiz .

It poses a series of 'what if?' questions to get pupils thinking.

Main activity


Pupils act out a scenario that involves bullying and it's prevention. Before they break into small groups and work on their own play, work through an example with the class.


Each group will be given a statement like this one:

PHIL, 14: I was always bullied about my glasses. By the time I was 13, I was desperate. Then Mum helped me think up some replies. It felt stupid saying them out loud at home and I didn't think it'd work. The first time I tried one of them out, Paul, the bully, was so surprised, he backed off. Everyone else laughed.

They are real interviews with victims and bullies from a Kidscape publication. We've put ten on a worksheet, but if you would like more detail, you can download "You Can Beat Bullying." from the Kidscape website. Click on the link in the top-right, green box.

Each group will produce two scenes:

  • One about the bullying
  • One showing how the bullying was stopped
Ask the class for ideas about EACH of these scenes. These prompt questions might be useful:
  • Which characters will be involved?
  • What will they say?
  • What will they do?
  • How will the scene start?
  • How will the scene end?
Bullying special section logo

Now break the class into small groups and give them each one of the following statements. Some are from victims and some are from bullies.

They are available as a printable worksheet.

The groups discuss how they are going to enact the two scenes, using the prompt questions, before assigning roles and devising the play.

Pupils could incorporate some of the assertiveness techniques suggested by Kidscape. See Teachers' background below.



Pupils perform their plays for the rest of the class.

End the lesson by asking the class: What can you do to stop bullying?

Make a class list of their suggestions.

For more information, see the Teachers' background below.

Teachers' background

Advice from Kidscape about bullying

Assertiveness techniques

  • Broken record: Say the same sentence over and over again, like a music track that keeps skipping. This works well when someone isn't listening to you.

  • Saying "No": Look the other person in the eye and say "No." You can offer an alternative: "No, I don't want to play football. Let's go for a walk instead." If you are not sure you can say "I don't know."

  • Fogging: When someone says something nasty about you, imagine it being swallowed up by a big fog wrapped around you. Reply with a short answer like: "It's possible." This often works better than flinging another insult back.
What can I do if I am being bullied?
  • Tell a friend what is happening.
  • Try to ignore the bullying or say 'No' really firmly.
  • Try not to show that you are upset or angry.
  • Don't fight back if you can help it. Most bullies are stronger or bigger than their victims.
  • It's not worth getting hurt to keep possessions or money.
  • Think up clever replies in advance.
  • Try to avoid being alone in the places where you know the bully is likely to pick on you.
  • Stick with a group, even if they are not your friends. Bullies tend to pick on people when they are on their own.
  • Sometimes asking the bullies to repeat whatever they've said can take the wind out of their sails.
  • Practise 'walking tall' in a mirror. If you look positive and confident, the bully will find it harder to identify you as a target.
  • Keep a diary of what is happening.
  • Tell your parents or other adults. Don't suffer in silence.
  • Tell your teacher, your Year tutor, head of PSHE, nurse, secretary or a member of staff you like.
  • Take a friend with you
  • Write a letter to someone, of you can't face telling them.
  • If you are being bullied by a gang, get the weakest member alone and ask why you are being bullied. Often members of a bully gang join in to keep on the gang leader's good side.
What can I do if I am being bullied online or by phone?
  • Change your mobile number.
  • Keep a copy of threatening or abusive text messages or emails so they can be shown to the police or other authorities.
  • Contact service providers to find out how they can help.
  • Do not open or reply to emails or text messages unless you know the person sending them.
  • If someone has set up a hate website about you, tell your parents, the school, police and contact the website host to get it closed down.
  • Remember that it is a criminal offence to make anonymous or abusive telephone calls and anonymous calls can usually be traced so it is worth contacting the police to make a complaint.
How can I start to feel better about myself?

If you have been bullied for a long time, you might start to believe what the bully says. This is not true. It is 'victim think.' Here are some things you can do to start thinking positively about yourself:

  • Make a list of all the good things you can think of about yourself.
  • Learn to talk to yourself in a positive way.
  • If you have a particular interest, develop your skill.
  • Do some voluntary work.
  • Join a group.
  • Think about going to self-defence classes.
How to say 'No'
  • When you say 'No,' say it firmly.
  • Try not to become angry.
  • If you don't want to do something, don't give into pressure.
  • If you are sure and somebody is bugging you for an answer, say "I need more time" or "I need more information."
  • Don't make excuses.
  • Offer an alternative
For hundreds more news-based lessons, click on Teachers on the left hand side.

Most recent lesson plan

Video clips for teachers
Student quizzes
Educational games
Citizenship guides