Thousands of young people experience bullying behaviour every day. They often don’t speak out about it because they are scared of what might happen or they are unsure about who to tell or how to report it online. We want to change this by showing young people that they deserve to be heard and that help and support are available.
Experiencing bullying behaviour can make young people feel small, lonely and like they have no voice. They may think that even if they did manage to say something, no one would believe them.
If you know or suspect that your child is experiencing bullying behaviour, it can be a very upsetting and emotional time. You may also feel unsure about what to do to support them and how to access help.
The signs of bullying behaviour aren’t always obvious. If you’re ever unsure, speak up to remind your child that they aren’t alone and that you’re there to support them. No-one should face bullying alone.
How can you tell if your child is experiencing bullying behaviour?
A young person might be hesitant to tell you about bullying behaviour for a variety of reasons: they may feel embarrassed, upset or angry. They may worry that, by speaking out, they will make the situation worse, so it’s important to remind them that you are there for them and will listen to their concerns. Here are some signs to look out for:
• Unwillingness to go to school, perhaps saying they’re unwell
• Coming home with damaged or missing belongings
• Seeming anxious or depressed
• Appearing more withdrawn or shy, including self-isolating or withdrawal from activities they previously enjoyed
• Worsening performance or behaviour at school
• Having unexplained cuts or bruises
• Change in friendships
• Hiding their phone, tablet or other devices or checking them more often than usual
How to support a young person
It can be very upsetting to hear that a young person is experiencing bullying behaviour. Try to remain calm; they may be worried what you will do or say and they don’t want you to become angry or upset. It’s important to listen, support and ask them how you can help, so that you can work out what to do together.
Letting a child feel heard is key. The most important thing you can do is listen. Practice ‘active listening’ where you summarise back what your child has said. So, for example, “so they took your books and threw them all over the floor? And you cried because you felt sad? I can understand why you’d be upset.” Try not to respond with advice telling them to not “tell tales”, or “be strong, ignore it” and try not to confiscate a device or restrict access if they report online bullying behaviour, these are things young people have said are not helpful and can make the young person feel unsupported or punished for speaking out.
Thank and work with them
A young person needs to know that they have done the right thing by talking to you about this. They might be worried that by telling you, the problem will get worse. Try not to take over their problem, worry or concern by taking action without them. Instead work with them to show them you are listening and to help them think about solving and making the situation better together. This will stop some worries in their head about not knowing the next steps. Keep communicating, checking in and updating them on any agreed actions/next steps.
Thank them for being open about it and let them know you’ll do your best to help sort things out.
Make a record
Make notes with your child about what has been going on and when. Take screenshots of any online bullying behaviour if possible and encourage your child to report it and block. Finding out about the tools available on the specific platform may help the young person to mute, block, restrict and report the person.
Download Parent Guide to Bullying – Don’t face it alone.