Bullying can happen anywhere – at school or online – and it’s important for parents to know how to spot signs that their child might be suffering.
Whether it’s name calling, hitting, pushing, spreading rumours or making threats, children can be both physically and emotionally affected by bullying. The torment can take place in school playgrounds but also online on social media networks, gaming platforms and mobile phones.
Cyberbullying can include a range of things, from children receiving threatening or abusive messages and becoming victims of trolls to being shamed online. But how can you tell if your child is being bullied?
The NSPCC children’s charity has outlined some signs for parents to look out for. These are listed below, followed by the charity’s advice on what you can do to help your child. You can find more information on the NSPCC website here.
Signs of bullying
The NSPCC says that no single sign will indicate for certain that your child is being bullied. But watch out for:
- belongings getting ‘lost’ or damaged
- physical injuries, such as unexplained bruises
- being afraid to go to school, being mysteriously ‘ill’ each morning, or skipping school
- not doing as well at school
- asking for, or stealing, money (to give to whoever’s bullying them)
- being nervous, losing confidence, or becoming distressed and withdrawn
- problems with eating or sleeping
- bullying others
What you can do to help
Talk to them about bullying and cyberbullying
If you suspect your child is being bullied, explain to them what bullying is and ask if anything like that has happened to them. Keep calm and listen carefully to what they say.
They may feel really scared, embarrassed or ashamed that they’re being bullied, and they may be worried about what will happen if they tell anyone. Once you know your child is being bullied, remember to check in with them regularly. Remind them that they can talk to you about how they’re feeling whenever they want.
Let them know who to ask for help
If they don’t want to talk to you, suggest they have a chat with another trusted adult, such as a teacher or family member. You could also suggest they contact Childline, where a trained counsellor will provide a listening ear. They don’t have to give their name and they can talk about anything that’s worrying them.
Help them relax and take a time out
Children and young people may lack confidence as a result of bullying. Help them find things to do that make them feel good, like listening to, or playing, music, or doing sport. Give them opportunities to help build their confidence. Remember to reassure them that it’s not their fault and that they’re loved and valued.
Report bullying on social media and online gaming
As well as supporting your child emotionally, there are practical steps you can take if the bullying has taken place on an online platform, such as a social media app or online gaming chat room. Don’t stop them from using the internet or their mobile phone. It probably won’t help keep them safe, it may feel like they’re being punished and could stop them from telling you what’s happening.
Make sure your child knows how to block anyone who posts hateful or abusive things about them on each app or online service they use. You can usually find details of how to do this in the help or online safety area, under Settings.
Report anyone who is bullying your child to the platform that’s carried the offending comments, audio, image or video.
Report hate crime
Bullying someone because of their gender, gender identity, sexuality, religious beliefs, race, skin colour or because they have a disability, is hate crime and against the law. If this is happening to your child, you can report it. You can contact the police by phone. Call 999 in an emergency or 101 at other times.
Talk to your child’s school or club
If your child is being bullied, you can talk to their school. It doesn’t matter whether the bullying is happening on the premises, outside or on the internet. All schools have a responsibility to protect their pupils from bullying.
Arrange a meeting with their teacher. Take a notebook so you can jot down what’s said at the meeting and bring any evidence you have of the bullying, such as text messages, a record of incidents, or screenshots if the bullying is happening online. Ask the teacher what action they’re going to take, making sure you all agree on what they propose to do.
If your child is being bullied at a club, talk to the person in charge.
Childline can be contacted for help and support 24/7. Calls to 0800 1111 are free and confidential. Children can also contact Childline online here.