A child sat next to his father and looking up to him.


What is bullying?

Bullying is any repeated behaviour that intentionally hurts someone else. It can be physically or emotionally hurtful, or both. It can happen anywhere. It might be at school, a workplace, online, in social spaces or at home. 

Bullying is never okay or excusable. It can have a huge impact on a young person’s wellbeing. It can also have a longer-term effect on their mental health, even after it has stopped. 

  • calling someone names
  • making hurtful comments or repeatedly criticising someone
  • making threats
  • being violent or aggressive
  • spreading rumours
  • undermining, humiliating or excluding someone
  • pressuring someone
  • trying to control or manipulate someone

When these types of behaviours happen online, it’s often known as ‘cyberbullying’.

  • racist bullying based on someone’s skin colour or ethnicity
  • homophobic bullying based on someone’s sexual orientation
  • transphobic bullying based on someone’s gender identity
  • religious bullying based on someone’s beliefs or faith
  • targeting someone due to a perceived ‘difference’, including a disability or neurodiverse condition

These types of bullying are legally defined as hate crimes.

What are the signs?

If a child or young person is being bullied, they might:

  • seem worried, anxious or low
  • avoid school or the place where the bullying is happening, for example by often saying they feel unwell
  • have unexplained injuries such as bruises or scratches
  • have belongings that get ‘lost’ or damaged
  • seem less confident in themselves or show signs of low self-esteem
  • withdraw from other people
  • struggle more with their schoolwork
  • get upset or panicky, or have outbursts of unexplained anger
  • show changes in their behaviour, such as suddenly dressing very differently to ‘fit in’
  • act in a bullying way towards others
  • eat or sleep significantly more or less than usual

It’s important to remember that there could be lots of other reasons for these changes. If you’ve noticed some of these signs, the next step is to talk to your child or young person to find out what’s going on. We’ve got tips to help you do this below.

Parent sits with their arm around their child to reassure them.

How can I talk to my child or young person about bullying?

If you’re worried about bullying, gently check-in about what's going on. Here are some tips to help you have the conversation:

  • Talk while you're doing an activity together

    Talking during an activity can help your child or young person to relax. This can support them to open up and make it feel like less of a ‘big chat’. You might be walking, driving somewhere or cooking together.

  • Use an ‘I’ sentence to start the conversation

    You could say something like, ‘I’ve noticed that you seem really down at the moment and I’m worried that something might be going on at school. Can we have a chat about it?’. 

  • Listen to what it’s like for them

    Remember that they may feel scared or embarrassed about what’s going on. They will need you to be calm, listen carefully, and empathise with how they feel.

  • Be clear that it isn’t okay

    Let them know that they do not deserve to be treated this way. It is not their fault and they have not done anything wrong.

    It can also help to explain what bullying is and how it makes people feel. This shows them they're not alone in going through this. And that what they're feeling is normal.

  • Reassure them that you can help

    Let them know that you love them and you’re here for them. Explain that you can work to make things better together. Reassure them that you can take steps towards making sure the bullying stops.

  • Keep trying if your child is not ready to talk

    Lots of young people will find it hard to talk to their parents. If they don’t want to talk, try again another day. You can also try messaging, texting or writing a letter instead. If they can't talk to you at the moment, encourage them to reach out to friends, teachers, other trusted adults or a helpline.

How can I stop the bullying?

A girls listening to music sat on a wall in the park.

It’s important to focus on taking practical steps towards making sure the bullying stops. Your child or young person can only start to recover from what’s happened when they feel safe again.

Wherever the bullying is happening, keep a record of any incidents as soon as they start. This will help when you’re reporting it to professionals. Each time there is an incident, try to:

  • write down what was said or done, including the time and place it happened
  • take photos of any damaged possessions or physical injuries
  • take screenshots of any online messages
  • write down the impact the incident has had on your child or young person
  1. Read the school’s anti-bullying policy. This will tell you what the school should do about the bullying. The policy is usually on the school’s website. If you cannot find it, ask a member of staff to send it to you.
  2. Organise a meeting with the school as soon as possible. This might be with their teacher, form tutor or head of year. Use the notes you have made to explain what’s happening. Then ask the school what actions they can take to stop the bullying. It can help to send an email afterwards summarising what you and the school have agreed. You can also arrange another meeting for a few weeks' time, so you can talk about whether the actions have worked.
  3. Get support to help you communicate with the school. If talking to the school is challenging at the moment, find some support. Before meetings, talk things through with friends, family or other parents. This will give you a chance to think about what you want to say. You can also ask someone you trust to attend meetings with you. This can help you to feel more confident about communicating your concerns.
  4. Escalate your concerns if the school does not respond. If you are not happy with the school’s response, escalate the problem to a more senior member of staff. This could be a head of year, deputy head, or the head teacher. If you are still not happy with the response, you can also contact the school governors. Their contact details should be on the school’s website. If you need to escalate it again, you can contact the Local Education Authority or the Academy Trust.

If your child or young person is anxious about school, or feels like they cannot go, you can find advice about this in our guide for parents and carers.

School anxiety and refusal
  1. Take screenshots so you have evidence. This could be of images, videos or messages that are harmful.
  2. Report it to the game or social media platform. Most games and social media platforms have an anti-bullying policy. You should be able to find this on their website. The policy will outline how to report concerns and how the game or platform should respond. You can mention this policy when you report the behaviour.
  3. Block the bully. You should be able to block the person who is targeting your child or young person online. This means they will not be able to contact them on that platform anymore. The game or platform should have instructions on how to do this.
  4. Keep reporting the bullying until it stops. It may not stop the first time you report it or the first time you block someone. Keep checking in about whether it has happened again. Report it each time, using the notes and evidence you have gathered.
  5. Talk about staying safe online. Work together to make sure they feel safe and happy when they’re online. They can use our guide for young people to help them create a positive experience on social media.
  6. Talk to their school. The school should be able to provide information and advice about cyberbullying. If your child or young person is being bullied online by people from their school, report it to the school as soon as you can. Head teachers of state schools have the legal power to make sure their pupils behave outside school. This means the school should be involved, even if the bullying is not happening at school.

Childnet has more information about online bullying and staying safe online.

Read Childnet's advice
  1. Talk to the adults in charge of the space. If the bullying is happening at a club, organisation or social space, discuss the problem with the adults in charge. Tell them what’s happening and ask what action they will take. Keep checking in with them about how things are going. Escalate the problem to more senior staff if you need to.
  2. Talk to your child or young person’s school. The school should be able to provide information and advice. If your young person is being bullied by people from school, report it to the school as soon as you can. Head teachers of state schools have the legal power to make sure their pupils behave outside school. This means the school should be involved, even if the bullying is not happening at school.
  3. Report the bullying to the police and your local council. You can do this by:
    - reporting it online on your local police force or council website
    - visiting a police station to speak to someone
    - calling 101 to speak to the police, if the situation is not an emergency
    - calling your local council
  4. Help them find ways to feel safe. This might mean not going to certain places until more action can be taken. Or it could be making sure they go out with a friend who always treats them well.
  5. Make a plan for what they should do if they encounter the bullies. This could include:
    - calling you or another trusted adult
    - getting to a safe space
    - calling the police

If the bullying is a danger to your young person’s safety, or makes anyone feel unsafe, report your concerns to the police. You can do this by calling 101 if the situation is not an emergency. If anyone is in immediate danger, call 999 for emergency support. You can also report any type of hate crime to the police.

How can I support my child or young person?

Check-in with them regularly about how things are feeling. Each time you talk, listen calmly and carefully. Keep reassuring them that they are loved and they do not have to put up with bullying. Let them know that you will be there to support them throughout the experience.

Do activities together that they enjoy. This can give them a sense of achievement and belonging. You might do exercise together, play sport, cook or bake, or watch a favourite TV programme. Try to notice and celebrate their efforts in these activities. You can find more advice about self-esteem in our guide for parents and carers.


Help them to think about who these people are. If they’re not sure, it might help to join a club or group where they can meet people with shared interests.

Remember that some young people find it hard to spend time with new people. They may need space and time to give this a go. This can be especially true if they see the people doing the bullying as their friends.

It’s important that they get some time for relaxing and switching off from the situation. This could be things like:

  • listening to music
  • exercising
  • watching a favourite film
  • doing something creative

Your young person can use our guide to self-care to get started.


Young people want their parents to:

  • show unconditional kindness and acceptance – whatever their sexuality, gender, race or ability
  • let them vent when they need to

Young people don't like it when their parents:

  • underestimate how mean kids can be sometimes
  • minimise or ignore what’s happening
  • use phrases like ‘sticks and stones may break your ones but words can never hurt you’

Where can I find mental health support?

A young person who has experienced bullying may start to feel anxious, low, or bad about themselves. Or they might start to experience difficult feelings related to trauma. If you’re worried about your child or young person’s mental health, find them some professional help. You can:

The GP can talk to your child or young person about how they’re feeling and suggest things that might help. They can also organise referrals for specialist help if needed. You can find out more about the support GPs offer in our guide for parents and carers.

Getting support from the GP

A counsellor or therapist can help your child or young person to make sense of what’s happened and find ways of coping. You can find out how to access counselling and therapy in our guide for parents and carers.

Counselling and therapy

Lots of schools provide a counselling service for their students. They may also be able to offer drop-ins, mentoring, peer buddying and activity clubs. Or the school may be able to refer your child or young person to local services that support with bullying.

Useful helplines and websites

While we take care to ensure that the organisations we signpost to provide high quality information and advice, we cannot take responsibility for any specific pieces of advice they may offer. We encourage parents and carers to always explore the website of a linked service or organisation to understand who they are and what support they offer before engaging with them.

  • YoungMinds Parents Helpline

    We support parents and carers who are concerned about their child or young person's mental health. Our Parents Helpline provides detailed advice and information, emotional support and signposting.

    You can speak to us over the phone or chat to us online.

    You can speak to us over webchat between 9.30am and 4pm from Monday-Friday. When we’re closed, you can still leave us a message in the chat. We’ll reply to you by email in 3-5 working days.

    Opening times:
    9.30am-4pm, Monday-Friday
  • Kidscape

    Information, advice and support for parents, carers and other family members who are concerned that a child is being bullied or may be involved in bullying others.

    You can also contact them via WhatsApp on 07496 682785.

    Opening times:
    9.30am - 2.30pm, Mondays and Tuesdays

    Advice and support for anyone who is worried that a child is being bullied or cyberbullied.

    If you are deaf or hard of hearing and have a webcam, you can contact them via SignVideo using British Sign Language (service Monday to Friday, from 9am to 6pm).

    Opening times:
    8am - 10pm, Monday - Friday; 9am - 6pm at weekends
  • Childnet

    Information and advice about cyberbullying, staying safe online and setting healthy boundaries around screen time.

  • Stop Hate UK

    A confidential and independent helpline for anyone experiencing Hate Crime and discrimination. You can use the helpline to report incidents and get help and support. The helpline is open 24/7 and is reachable by phone, text or email.

    Please note that this service is only available in some parts of the UK. Please use their form to check whether you can use the helpline in your area.

  • Ditch the Label

    Online information, advice and personal stories about bullying and cyberbullying.

  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
  • The Mix

    Free, short-term online counselling for young people aged 25 or under. Their website also provides lots of information and advice about mental health and wellbeing. 

    Email support is available via their online contact form.

    They have a free 1-2-1 webchat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 11pm, Monday - Friday
  • Tellmi

    Formerly known as MeeToo. A free app for teenagers (11+) providing resources and a fully-moderated community where you can share your problems, get support and help other people too.

    Can be downloaded from Google Play or App Store.

  • Muslim Youth Helpline

    Provides faith and culturally sensitive support for young Muslims. 

    Online chat service available during opening hours.

    Opening times:
    4pm - 10pm, 365 days a year
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This page was reviewed in April 2024.

It was created with parents and carers with lived experience of supporting their child or young person with bullying.

We will next review the page in 2027.

YoungMinds is a proud member of PIF TICK – the UK's quality mark for trusted health information.

Whether you love the page or think something is missing, we appreciate your feedback. It all helps us to support more young people with their mental health.

Please be aware that this form isn’t a mental health support service. If your child is in crisis right now and you want to talk to someone urgently, find out who to contact on our urgent help page.

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This form is not a mental health support service. We cannot reply to this. If you or your child are at immediate risk of harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E. If you are worried about your child’s mental health, call our Parents Helpline on 0808 802 5544, Mon-Fri, 9:30am – 4pm. If you are struggling with your own mental health, call Samaritans on 116 123.

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