All children and young people have the right to learn in a safe and healthy environment that’s free from bullying, harassment, and intimidation in all forms. Unfortunately, bullying still happens inside and outside of school, but most cases are resolved quickly.
Bullying is best understood as a set of harmful behaviours directed at one person or a group. It can include verbal, physical, psychological, or socially harmful behaviours that may inflict harm, stress, and/or injury.
Early Warning Signs
The difficulty of knowing if a child is being bullied is a common concern, especially in our digital world. Changes in a child’s mood, physical appearance, and behaviours could be an indicator that a child is being bullied.
It can be helpful to have supportive conversations with children and young people in your care to establish what they would do and who they would tell if they had a problem that was worrying them.
Recognising the warning signs early means you can take action to stop bullying. However, not all children show these signs. These signs might be indicative of other issues in a young person’s life.
Here are 10 indicators you need to look out for:
- A change in sleeping patterns or mentions of frequent nightmares.
- Not wanting to attend school and making up excuses as to why they don’t want to go.
- Returning home from school with ripped clothing or broken/missing belongings.
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, and scratches on their body.
- Frequent headaches, sore stomach pains, and possible fabrication of an illness.
- Irregular eating patterns, skipping meals, loss of appetite, or being hungrier than usual.
- A noticeable decline in standards of schoolwork.
- A nervous reluctance to use their mobile phones/internet.
- Unexplained avoidance of regular social activities with usual friendship groups.
- Showing unusual aggression or being disruptive/unreasonable.
If you are worried because you are witnessing these behaviours, it’s a sign you should take action. Talk to the child, openly and honestly. This will help you identify a problem early. Bullying is very rarely a complete secret.
Young people might not use the word bullying when telling you about things that made them sad, upset, or worried at school. If a child in your care confides in you or you suspect something is wrong, having a gentle well-planned conversation can help.