Bullying and harassment
Bullying can happen at any time and to any child, but it most often happens in school. It can be carried out physically, verbally, emotionally or online or can be a combination of different types.
- children have the right not to be hurt
- bullying behaviour is never acceptable
- bullying can happen to any child at any age
- children need ways to protect themselves and seek help
- advise your child to run, yell and tell
- if the bullying is online, advise them to take a screenshot and tell a trusted adult
- speak to your child's school immediately if you have any concerns
Bullying is a frightening experience, which can damage a young person's self-confidence. Sometimes children will not say that they are being bullied but might show it by:
- running away
- not going to school, or not wanting to go to school
- challenging behaviour and difficulty learning for no obvious reason
- injuries with no good explanation for them
- deleted messages and accounts on phones and tablets, and not wanting to show their phone to a parent or carer
Contacting the school
Parents should make contact with their child's school as soon as they become aware of any problems. Please take a note of what action they intend to take.
All schools are required to have an Anti-Bullying Policy and it is important that parents and schools work together to support and protect the child.
If you remain unhappy with the school's response, you can always follow the school's complaints procedure.
If you need to contact your child's school you can find the relevant contact details on our find a school or college page.
Helping your child
- let your child know you are always there for them
- listen to your child and reassure them
- encourage your child to tell someone they trust, this may be an adult or a mini-bud, buddy or peer supporter in school
- teach your child coping strategies
- discuss ideas with your child on how to sort the problem out for themselves
- meet with school to work out a plan of action
- refer to your child's school Anti-Bullying Policy. By law, all schools should have one
- write a bullying report listing all the incidents of bullying and take it to the school
- get your child to keep a bullying diary
- keep screenshots of online bullying
Many young people feel under pressure to do things that they are not happy about, because they don't want to stick out from the crowd by saying 'no'. This might be wearing certain clothes or shopping in the right places, but on a more serious level, this might involve missing school, experimenting with alcohol and/or drugs, shoplifting, joining a gang or going further with a boyfriend or girlfriend than they feel ready to.
Further advice and useful links about bullying
Anyone concerned about bullying should contact the school initially, but the following websites may be useful.
- Family Lives - Family Lives is a charity that offers free 24 hour support to children, young people and their families who are in vulnerable situations.
- Childline - Childline is a charity that helps children, young people and their families to deal with difficult issues.
- Kidscape - Kidscape is committed to keeping children safe from abuse. Kidscape is the first charity in the UK established specifically to prevent bullying and child sexual abuse.
- Bullying UK - Part of Family Lives
Online bullying, also known as cyberbullying, is when a person or a group of people use apps, the internet, email, games or any other kind of digital technology to threaten, tease, upset or humiliate someone else. There are lots of ways that bullies can target someone: apps, private messaging, social networking, online gaming and on a wide range of devices including mobile phones, tablets and games consoles.
There are things you can do to make it stop. The Childline website has some excellent advice on what to do if you are being bullied online or know someone who is being bullied online. Please let your child's school know about the problem, but it is quite possible that the bully might not attend the same school. Almost all apps and sites have tools to report abuse and block the messages. The NSPCC website Keeping children safe online has excellent advice for most sites, and in extreme cases the Police may also be able to take action.
Sometimes children may have shared explicit images and videos of themselves without any bullying, probably without thinking about the consequences. This is called sexting and if they are under 18 they will have committed a criminal offence. Once again Childline have some excellent resources and support. The National Crime Agency has produced a parent's guide to nude selfies.
Some adults and older children may trick and bully children to send explicit images or videos of themselves. The child is often made to feel guilty by the perpetrator and bullied to produce more images. This is always wrong and illegal. If you become aware that this is happening, please contact your child's school and the Police. Please isolate the device used, as it may be needed by the Police to catch the individuals concerned. Again, Childline will be very supportive.