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Anti-bullying week 2017: What signs should we be looking for?

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 11:23

About Jules Higham

Jules has taught for over 20 years and has been working as an Education Advisor for North Yorkshire Behaviour and Attendance for the past 5 years working within the Social, Emotional and Mental Health team.

What should we be looking for in schools?

There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying—either being bullied or bullying others and recognising the warning signs is an important first step in taking action. Not all children or young people who are bullied or are bullying others ask for help.

Look for changes in the child or young person - however, be aware that not all children or young people who are bullied exhibit warning signs.


Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are: 

  • Unexplainable injuries, bruising
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, mobile phones, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. They may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch
  • Becoming withdrawn – not talking, or spending more time alone.
  • Difficulty sleeping or wetting the bed
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school.
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Changes in behaviour – becoming aggressive
  • Self-destructive behaviours such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

What are the signs a child is bullying others?

A child or young person may be bullying others if they:

  • Get into physical or verbal fights
  • Have friends who bully others
  • Are increasingly aggressive
  • Get sent to the head teacher’s office or to detention frequently
  • Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

It is important to talk with children or young people who show signs of being bullied or bullying others. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse. Talking to the child or young person can help identify the root of the problem. It is also important to discuss concerns with parents/carers.

Why don’t children or young people ask for help?

  • Bullying can make a child or young person feel helpless. They may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a telltale.
  • A child or young person may fear backlash from the person who bullied them.
  • Bullying can be a humiliating experience. They may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak.
  • A child or young person who is bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or could understand.
  • A child or young person may fear being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect from bullying and the child or young person can fear losing this support.

The Inclusive Education Service can offer advice and support to schools about generic anti-bullying work as well as responding to specific complex issues. To find out more click here.


Jules Higham

Education Advisor, North Yorkshire Behaviour and Attendance