What children are telling us about bullying The experiences of young people contacting Childline about bullying in 2015/16

Young boy in coat against a wallBullying has been one of the top 5 concerns of children contacting Childline since 1989. It’s not a new problem, but over time we have seen changes in how, where, and when children are bullied. Children have told us about the effects of bullying and the difficulties involved in asking adults for help. We’ve also seen some powerful messages of support and advice from young people using Childline’s online message boards.

We have written this report to help people working with children to understand what children who are being bullied are experiencing, think about what support they need, and consider how to respond effectively. 

Authors: NSPCC
Published: 2016

    • Bullying is the second most common reason for boys and the third most common reason for girls to contact Childline. It makes up 9 per cent of all counselling sessions (25,740 sessions in 2015/16).
    • Bullying is the most common reason for children aged 11 and under to contact Childline; almost 1 in 4 sessions with this age group in 2015/16 were about bullying.
    • Physical bullying is the top bullying concern for children aged 11 and under; peer pressure is top for 12–15 year olds and online bullying for 16–18 year olds.
    • While overall, levels of counselling about bullying remain high, the way in which children are being bullied and what they are bullied about has changed over time.
    • Bullying affects academic performance and is linked to mental and physical health problems. In a quarter of counselling sessions about bullying, children also talked about mental health and wellbeing issues.
    • Childline also provides counselling to children who are worried about a friend or sibling who is being bullied, and to young people who are taking part in bullying behaviour themselves and seeking help on how to stop.
    • Despite efforts from schools and organisations to respond to and reduce bullying, some children are contacting us because they are afraid to speak out or because they have seen that speaking out can make things worse. Other children have told us that speaking out is the only way to tackle the problem.
    • Receiving support from peers or young people who have experienced bullying can be hugely beneficial both in terms of suggesting strategies that have worked and providing emotional support.
Foreword 3
Introduction 4
Key findings 5
What is bullying? 6
How children are being bullied 7
What children are bullied about 10
Bullying on online gaming sites 14
Bullying in gangs 15
Speaking out about bullying 16
Messages from this report 21
Strategies that schools can use to tackle bullying 22
Appendix 23

“Ever since the Paris attacks, I have been getting bullied really badly at school. I wear a headscarf and the bullies think that just because I am Muslim that I support ISIS. It’s gotten so bad that I have started to miss school, which I never do. The teachers can see what’s happening but they don’t seem to want to get involved or do anything about it. I just want to be treated like a human being and the same as everyone else.”

“A kid at my school calls me hurtful names every day and today he repeatedly hit me really hard in my face. It happened outside of school and another kid took a video of me being hit and has posted it on Instagram. I want it removed because now other people are being nasty to me online. I have reported it but they haven’t taken it off yet. I don’t want to involve the police or my family. I just want to deal with this on my own.”

"My parents bought me Minecraft and I have been playing online. Another user has been mean to me and using swear words. He destroyed a building I spent a lot of time building. I am feeling really sad and don’t want to repeat the bad words and tell my mum or dad and I don’t want to be mean back. What can I do?”

Please cite as: NSPCC (2016) What children are telling us about bullying. London: NSPCC.

Looking for something in particular?

Our Information Service can help you find the latest policy, practice and research in child protection.

Call 0808 800 5000 or email help@nspcc.org.uk for more information.

Submit an enquiry

Related resources

Research and publications

"I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it"

Research report into the impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children and young people.
Find out more

Childline: 30 years of listening to children

A short history of Childine’s first 30 years.
Find out more

Childline annual review 2015-16: It turned out someone did care

The issues children and young people contacted Childline about in 2015/16.
Read the review

How safe are our children? 2016

Our report compiles and analyses the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across the 4 nations in the UK for 2016.
Read the report

Telling about bullying

A story in pictures providing advice for deaf adults to help them find out what they can do when a child is being bullied.
Find out more

Information and advice

Bullying and cyberbullying

Bullying can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally.
Read more about bullying and cyberbullying

Tips for preventing bullying

5  tips to help you to tackle bullying in your school and provide a safe environment for children and young people.

Read our tips

Keeping children safe

Find out how you can keep children safe from abuse and other dangers, both online and in the physical world.
Learn how to keep them safe

Support for professionals

CASPAR

Our Current Awareness Service for Practice, Policy And Research delivers free weekly email alerts to keep you up-to-date with all the latest safeguarding and child protection news.

Sign up to CASPAR

Information Service

Our free service for people who work with children can help you find the latest policy, practice, research and news on child protection and related subjects.

For more information, call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Submit an enquiry

Follow @NSPCCpro

Follow us on Twitter and keep up-to-date with all the latest news in child protection.

Follow @NSPCCpro on Twitter

Library catalogue

We hold the UK's largest collection of child protection resources and the only UK database specialising in published material on child protection, child abuse and child neglect.

Search the library

New in the Library

A free weekly email listing all of the new child protection publications added to our library collection.

Sign up to New in the Library

Helping you keep children safe

Read our guide for professionals on what we do and the ways we can work with you to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.

Read our guide (PDF)

Impact and evidence hub

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.

Our impact and evidence

Get expert training and consultancy

Grow your child protection knowledge and skills with CPD certified courses delivered by our experts nationwide and online.
Get expert training

Sharing knowledge to keep children safe

Read our guide to NSPCC Knowledge and Information Services to find out how we can help you with child protection queries, support your research, and help you learn and develop.

Read our guide (PDF)

Services for children and families

Volunteer for Childline

Volunteer for Childline helpline and be there when a child needs you most.
Volunteer for Childline

Services for children, families and professionals

We work face to face with children, young people and families who need our help across the UK.
View our services

Childline

Our Childline service offers help and support to thousands of children and young people whenever they need us. 
Read about Childline