It can be hard for adults, including parents, to know whether or not a child is being bullied. A child might not tell anyone because they're scared the bullying will get worse. They might think that they deserve to be bullied, or that it's their fault.

You can’t always see the signs of bullying. And no one sign indicates for certain that a child’s being bullied. But you should look out for:

  • belongings getting “lost” or damaged
  • physical injuries such as unexplained bruises
  • being afraid to go to school, being mysteriously 'ill' each morning, or skipping school
  • not doing as well at school
  • asking for, or stealing, money (to give to a bully)
  • being nervous, losing confidence, or becoming distressed and withdrawn
  • problems with eating or sleeping
  • bullying others.

If you think a child is being bullied, please see our tips for parents and carers to help children deal with bullying and cyberbullying.

Things you may notice

If you're worried that a child is being abused, watch out for any unusual behaviour. 

  • withdrawn
  • suddenly behaves differently
  • anxious
  • clingy
  • depressed
  • aggressive
  • problems sleeping
  • eating disorders
  • wets the bed
  • soils clothes
  • takes risks
  • misses school
  • changes in eating habits
  • obsessive behaviour
  • nightmares
  • drugs
  • alcohol
  • self-harm
  • thoughts about suicide

If you're worried about a child, contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of child abuse.

The impact of bullying and cyberbullying

Bullying can have devastating effects which can last into adulthood. At its worst, bullying has driven children and young people to self-harm and even suicide.

All children who are affected by bullying can suffer harm – whether they are bullied, they bully others or they witness bullying.

Mental health problems

Children and young people who are bullied are more at risk of developing mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. Children at the highest risk are those who are both bullied, and who bully others (Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2013; NICHD, 2012).

Children who are bullied also:

  • have fewer friendships
  • aren’t accepted by their peers
  • are wary and suspicious of others
  • have problems adjusting to school, and don’t do as well.


Effects on children who bully others

Children and young people who bully are at increased risk of:

  • substance misuse
  • academic problems
  • violent behaviour in later life.

Effects on children who witness bullying

Children who witness bullying may show similar signs as children who are being bullied. They may:

  • become reluctant to go to school
  • be frightened or unable to act
  • feel guilty for not doing anything to help.

Further information and advice

Who is affected

Nearly all children will be affected by bullying in some way. Find out more about who's at risk and why.
See who bullying and cyberbullying affects

Keeping children safe

How to help keep children safe from bullying and cyberbullying
Keeping children safe from bullying

Online safety

We’ve teamed up with O2 to help you keep children safe when they're using the internet, social networks, apps, games and more.
Online safety advice

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  1. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (2012) How does bullying affect health and well-being. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

  2. Victoria Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (2013) The impact of bullying. Melbourne: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.