Last updated: 27.02.20

How to spot when a child is being bullied

No child should have to experience bullying, whether that’s at school, at home or online via social media or messaging apps. The difficulty in spotting bullying comes in understanding what the signs are and addressing them with the bullied child. It can be especially hard for the victims of bullying as the can believe if they tell someone it might get worse or they may feel embarrassed about being picked on. The best thing to do is make them feel supported and talk to them directly, reassuring them that you will do everything you can to help them if they are being bullied.

Unexplained bruises and injuries

Coming home with visible bruising or injuries could be a sign of physical bullying, especially if they’re reluctant to explain how they got injured or their explanation doesn’t seem to line up with the type of injury. Children do get into bumps and scrapes a lot, but if they don’t want to talk about how they got them it could be because of bullying.

Fighting at school

Alternatively, if they’ve been getting into fights at school and sustaining injuries that way, bullying could be the root of those altercations. Becoming more aggressive and suddenly getting into fights is potentially a response to getting picked on, potentially leading to more serious incidents of violence.

Damaged or missing belongings

Arriving home with their schoolbag or things missing could be due to a bullying incident where items have been stolen from them. This is more likely to be the case if the child isn’t willing to explain why it has gone missing.

Deteriorating school performance

A sudden drop in grades or negative feedback from teachers could suggest that something is mentally affecting your child at school, with truancy being another factor which could be linked to avoidance of a bully.

Noticeable insecurities or anxiety

Mood swings and more pronounced negative moods are sometimes part of the difficult teenage years, but they can be motivated by bullying incidents. Not getting out of bed for school and faking illness to avoid going to school could be because they don’t want to be put in a situation where their bully can get them.

Refusing to talk about what’s wrong

One factor which can play a big role in identifying bullying incidents is the refusal to discuss what’s been happening with teachers or parents. Bullies will potentially threaten their target with an escalation of behaviour if adults get involved, making threats or even blackmailing them in order to keep the bullying secret.

If a child or young person displays a combination of these different signs, it’s potentially more likely that that’re experiencing bullying in some area of their lives. Our online safeguarding courses can help you to address bullying incidents and navigate talking to the targets about their experiences. Each course can be taken at your own pace and will help build up your knowledge of safeguarding principles.

You can also check out our useful and informative downloadable resources, including this checklist on spotting the signs a child is being bullied, this infographic on how to deal with a classroom bully, and this video on safeguarding children.