Anti-Bullying Week 2022 - How can I tell if my child is being bullied?

Despondent child who is a victim of bullying

For parents, bullying is always a concern. With our child’s school lives being mostly a mystery, and all manner of conversations happening on their mobile phones, it can be hard for parents to keep on top of their social interactions. Are we sure our child isn’t being bullied?

How can we tell if they don’t tell us?

The Anti-Bullying Alliance has found that at least 1 in 4 young people are bullied. Sadly children with disabilities or special educational needs are twice as likely to be targeted.

Bullying often causes a ripple effect including truanting, sleep problems, and mental health issues. These difficulties can often continue into adulthood.

It’s vital, therefore, that we aim to try and protect and help our children with bullying as best we can.

How can I tell if my child is being bullied?

Previous research has suggested that as many as 64% of bullying incidents go unreported. Even if you have a great relationship with your child, they may not open up to you. Kids keep bullying to themselves for all manner of reasons, including feeling embarrassed, or fearing retaliation.

There are signs to look out for which may indicate bullying. They include:

  • changes in behaviour, including eating habits, nightmares, and withdrawing socially
  • wanting to avoid school, and saying they have headaches and stomach aches
  • things going missing- money, bags, electronics etc. This can be because bullies have taken them
  • unexplained injuries
  • decreased self esteem
  • self-destructive behaviour, such as self-ham, or talking about suicide.

If you suspect bullying, try to talk to your child gently and supportively. If that fails, contact the school and ask either their form tutor or safeguarding lead about your concerns.

An upset child after being bullied at school

My child is being bullied. What can I do?

If you have found out that your child is being bullied, the first step is to gather all the facts together. Take note of the details of the incidents, and screen shot any associated phone messages. Contact the school as soon as possible and request a meeting with the necessary safeguarding staff.

When talking to the school, aim to approach the meeting in a non-confrontational manner. Provide as much detail as possible about the bullying, and ask what steps they will take.

Ensure that your child feels able to share what is happening at school with you, and their feelings and concerns.

I’m not happy with the outcome of my complaint to the school. What next?

If you feel the bullying is not being dealt with appropriately, you can escalate your concerns to the head of year, or the head teacher.

How can I make sure my child isn’t being cyber-bullied?

Bullying used to be only an in-person issue; sadly, the use of devices by children and teenagers presents a multitude of other ways for a child to be targeted.

Bullies may use social media such as TikTok, Twitter or messaging via Whatsapp. Examples of cyber-bullying include:

  • spreading malicious rumours or gossip
  • posting humiliating photos or videos
  • organising a physical attack with others
  • sending threatening messages.

If your child is being cyberbullied, take screen shots of all messages and content immediately. Depending on the kind of bullying, you can approach either the school or the police to take matters further.

Keeping your child safe and supported

You may find your child is resistant to reporting bullying. They may be afraid of repercussions or making the matter worse. Be sure to communicate to your child that their safety is your priority and the matter must be dealt with for their wellbeing. Let them know that they can talk with you about their feelings at any time- they are likely to be struggling with low self-esteem, anger and anxiety.

If your child is in danger of physical attack, discuss with the school the steps they will take to ensure your child’s safety. Don’t be afraid to contact the school again if you feel they haven’t done enough to take care of your child’s wellbeing.

Make sure that time spent on their mobiles/ tablets is limited, and phones are left outside of the bedroom at night. This helps you keep on top of their social interactions online, and helps them decompress ready for bed too.

Encourage them to think of their home as their ‘safe space’, where they can express their feelings and feel comforted. If you’ve experienced bullying yourself before, share your experiences with your child and how you overcame the problem.

For more information and support

Anti-Bullying Alliance

Act Against Bullying

National Bullying Helpline


This blog has appeared on DAD.Info.

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