Advice & Guides

Spotting the Signs of Bullying

Bullying can have a profound effect on the emotional and physical wellbeing of an individual.
What Is Bullying?

Bullying is intentional, aggressive behaviour that often involves intimidating, abusing or coercing an individual to cause them harm. It can take place in a variety of places, from school, to work, at home and online.

A study by charity Ditch the Label found that three out of four children who were subject to bullying said it affected their mental health.

What Does Bullying Look Like?

Bullying can take many forms. Some of these include:


  • Physical abuse (hitting, punching, kicking)
  • Emotional abuse (social exclusion, threats)
  • Verbal abuse (name calling, teasing, berating)
  • Hazing (humiliation activities in order to join a group or be accepted)
  • Racist abuse (bullying targeted at an individual’s race)
  • Disability abuse (bullying targeted at an individual’s disability)
  • Online Cyber abuse (harassment, impersonation, hate messages)

A bully may use one or more of these methods at the same time to target an individual.

How Can I Spot Bullying?

Part of bullying behaviour is the establishment of a power imbalance between the bully and victim. This can often make victims of bullying feel powerless, making them less able to speak up.

That’s why it’s even more important to be vigilant while looking for the signs and symptoms of bullying in your child.

Emotional signs

The emotional signs of bullying can include:

  • Feeling upset or down
  • Anxiousness and nervousness
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Unexplained anger
  • Self-deprecating comments
  • Crying episodes
  • Self-harm
Physical signs

The physical signs of bullying can include:

  • Inexplicable bruises, cuts or marks
  • Damaged, torn or missing clothing and personal items
  • Missing money
  • Sleep or eating problems
  • Getting into fights
  • Bedwetting
  • Complaints about stomach aches or head aches

Worried about discrimination and bullying?

Social signs

The social signs of bullying can include:

  • Avoiding social events (like parties)
  • No longer hanging out with friends
  • Avoiding social media
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
School signs

The school signs of bullying can include:

  • Making excuses for not going into school
  • Noticeable drop in school performance
  • Seems afraid of going to school
  • No longer takes part in school activities (such as clubs or trips)
What Should I Do if I Suspect My Child Is Being Bullied?

While these warning signs can be indicators of bullying, they can also indicate other problems, such as depression. Nevertheless, it is always worth keeping an eye out for changes in your child’s behaviour. Any changes in their behaviour should be taken seriously and addressed as soon as possible.

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, you should talk with their school and try to learn more about the bullying.

You should also try to have a conversation with your child about the bullying. However, keep in mind that they may not feel comfortable talking about it right away. You can start up a conversation by asking about their friends at school, or who they sit with at lunch. You can also ask if there are any children at their school that tease or exclude them on purpose.

If you are a foster carer, and suspect your foster child is being bullied, you should also contact your Supervising Social Worker. They will be able to help you access the right support and resources.

You can also find more about bullying from these charities and organisations:

Bullying UK
Anti-Bullying Alliance

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