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Bullying describes any behaviour that hurts someone else. Bullying behaviours can happen at school, at home or online, and the behaviours can be repeated over long periods of time, hurting young people physically and emotionally.

Online bullying - using social networks, games and mobile devices - is known as cyberbullying. Young people can feel like there’s no escape because it can happen wherever they are and at any time of day or night.

There are many types of bullying, which can include:

  • Physical – pushing, poking, kicking, hitting, biting, pinching
  • Verbal – name calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, threats, teasing, belittling
  • Emotional – isolating others, tormenting, hiding belongings, threatening gestures, ridicule, humiliation, intimidating, excluding, manipulation and coercion
  • Online/cyber – posting on social media, sharing photos, sending nasty text messages, social exclusion

 If you suspect a child is being bullied, you might notice some of the following:

  • Acting more quiet or withdrawn or acting up more than usual
  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothes or property
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness, particularly if associated with a particular time of day, day of the week or activity
  • Changed eating habits, loss of appetite, skipping meals or binge eating
  • Difficulty sleeping and/or nightmares
  • Reluctance to go to school
  • Not doing as well at school
  • Stealing or asking for money
  • They might turn to drugs and alcohol to help them manage their emotions 
  • Reports that they are bullying others

Young people who are bullied are more at risk of developing mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Young people at the highest risk are those who are both bullied and who bully others.

Don’t panic. Bullying is never pleasant but it’s important to establish the facts and reassure your child that you will deal with the problem together. Help them to work out a response to any comments they are receiving, and discuss what they could do if someone wants to fight them. You might be tempted to tell them to retaliate but this is best avoided as it can have unpredictable results. 

Depending on age and appropriateness, always tell them what actions you’re taking. 

If it's happening in a school or social environment, discuss your issues with the teacher/leader.

What to say to a child or young person that is being bullied:

  • It’s not their fault 
  • It’s normal to be upset
  • It’s important to tell an adult they trust that they are being bullied so they can help you sort things out
  • Ask them to keep a record of any evidence, photos, texts, notes, a diary of what happened and when
  • Tell them they don't need to spend time with people they don’t like or who make them feel bad
  • If they open up, reassure them that they’ve done the right thing in telling you

If your child has been seriously harmed or is at risk of serious harm this is a safeguarding issue and you should seek immediate help (eg call 999 and/or your local children’s services team).

You can contact your local School Nursing team to arrange to speak to your School Nurse for a confidential appointment (or see our self-help and other support section below for advice and further support from other organisations).

You might want to discuss the problem with the school, whether or not the bullying is associated with the school day, as the impact could still affect their concentration, focus and progress.