Dealing with Children who Bully


Type of Resource


Publication Date

September 21, 2023


Online Bullying  

We can all conjure up a mental image of a ‘bully’ – someone mean, troubled, and angry who takes out these feelings on others. You might imagine a person from your life or a character from a film or television show. But what happens when the ‘bully’ in question is a child in your care?

This is a reality many parents and carers are facing, especially as cases of cyberbullying are rising. It can be embarrassing and heart-breaking to find out a young person in your care has engaged in bullying behaviour. The most important thing to remember is that a bully who is a child is still a child.


“You can’t get away. The bullies follow you into your house. You used to be able to keep your head down and let it pass, but now…you can’t.”

– A quote from a victim of cyberbullying,
Anti-Bullying Alliance Report

With 64% of children and young people in the UK using social media sites or apps, it’s no wonder that 38% experience cyberbullying on social media daily. This includes:
It might feel easier to cyberbully a classmate behind the protection of a screen. It might not even feel like ‘real’ bullying at all. This also makes cyberbullying harder to spot, as it’s not happening in a physical space.

Why do children bully?

It might be difficult to understand or accept why a child in your care is being a bully. As children and young people are still forming in their emotional intelligence, choosing to bully another person is often the easy path to getting something they want. Their reasons for bullying might be:
There are also deeper psychological issues that may be the cause of bullying, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, or behavioural disorders. If you believe this is the case, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.

What can I do to help?

The best thing you can do in this situation is to realise that your child has a problem and needs your help. Here are some simple steps to help you help them:
Give them space to explain in their own time as it might be an emotional or embarrassing thing for them to discuss. Remind them that you love them and are not there to judge, but to help. These conversations should happen more than once.
Ask them to think about how they would feel if someone they love was treated that way, or to think of a time when they were bullied. Emphasise the hurt that this behaviour can cause others and reflect on why it must stop.
Think about how your actions (or those of other family members) might be affecting how the child is modelling their own actions. This might be things like shouting, teasing, or pressure to perform well in school and extracurricular activities.
Shut down any mean-spirited teasing or banter, encourage helping each other, and teach appropriate manners.
You can discuss examples of respectful language versus bullying language, and ‘friendship behaviour’ versus bullying behaviour. You can even use popular television shows or films as helpful examples.

Working Together

After privately discussing this behaviour with your child, take some time to pause and reflect before taking any next steps. If possible and appropriate, facilitate a meeting with the other child involved and their parent or carer, involving your child’s teacher if necessary. They may have helpful insight into the situation and may be able to facilitate classroom intervention if necessary.

Remember: bullying behaviour is not a reflection of who your child is as a person. They are still figuring out appropriate social skills, some of which do not always translate into online interaction. With the right support from adults who care, children who bully can and do change their behaviour. Helping them learn to apologise and interact appropriately will teach them how to be responsible for their actions and will benefit their future.

For further help and resources, you can visit:

Welcome to the Online Safety Hub

How old are you?

If you are under 18, click the blue button below to visit the Online Safety Hub micro-site for children and young people.