Signs of Bullying in Children

Author: Adam Heppell

Date: Thursday 25th February 2021

stop Bullying6

As plans are drawn up for children to return to school, many will be looking forward to returning to the classroom, interacting with friends, and returning to a routine. Some children may be having difficulties with bullying at school or in other settings and as a result, may not be looking forward to going back. It is important to spot the signs and know the effects of bullying on young children.

What is Bullying?

Bullying is when individuals or groups seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce someone who is perceived to be vulnerable. Children can be targeted for their physical appearance, race, faith, culture, or disability. All forms of bullying can cause a detrimental effect on one’s wellbeing. From an education standpoint, school performance could suffer.

Physical and Phycological Bullying

Physical bullying is the most obvious form. At school, physical bullies tend to be bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than their peers. Examples of physical bullying include kicking, hitting, punching, slapping, and shoving.

Sudden behavioural changes are a tell-tale sign. Temporary changes may be the result of an upcoming lesson or examination and will pass.  Prolonged changes, becoming distressed and withdrawn, could indicate an issue. Minor changes in dress sense could be due to pressure exerted by bullies.  Belongings could start getting mysteriously lost, meaning they may have been taken. Being afraid to go to school, being fictitiously unwell in the mornings, not attending a favourite afterschool activity, or becoming nervous and losing confidence.


Phycological bullying is usually the result of verbal abuse perhaps because of a disability or other reason, even wearing glasses. This can be difficult to spot as there are no physical signs, but the behavioural changes may be similar. An indicator might be if they start asking about race or a disability they may have. A child might start using terms they have not used before. With instances of home bullying a child might overreact to an observation, mistaking it for criticism.

In both cases, encourage a child to open up. Notifying a teacher is a good start.


Online Bullying 


Cyberbullying is becoming increasingly common for children. If a child is getting bullied at school, they can escape the perpetrator at home. This is not the case online. Bullies can follow their targets everywhere they go by posting messages on social media or mobile phones.

Trolling is a new term mostly associated with social media. It can be difficult to trace the perpetrator due to the ease of creating fake accounts. We have seen social media abuse occur in many walks of life.

A recent ONS survey revealed how common cyberbullying is. 19% of children aged 10 to 15 years old in England and Wales experienced at least one type of online bullying behaviour in the year ending March 2020, equivalent to 764,000 children. 52% of those children who experienced online bullying behaviours said they would not describe these behaviours as bullying, and one in four did not report it.   

Name-calling, swearing or having upsetting messages about them were the two most common online bullying behaviour types, experienced by 10% of all children aged 10 to 15 years.

72% of people who experienced online bullying behaviour experienced at least some of it at school or during school time. A child might be increasingly withdrawn, have fewer friends, or be wary and suspicious of others.

Keeping young children informed of the risks of social media can be a major help. Make sure they are familiar with friends’ accounts and keep their content available only to friends and make them aware of the block button. As children get older it is likely they will start to develop a digital footprint. Keep an eye on social media activity. If you suspect that your child is having issues online, tackle them as soon as possible and ask them about it. Report social media abuse.

Are you interested in learning more about Bullying Awareness? Find out more about our Level 2 Certificate in Awareness of Bullying in Children and Young People and other courses here.