Signs a Child Is Being Bullied
Look for changes in the child. However, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs.
Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are:
- Unexplainable injuries.
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewellery.
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness.
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares.
- 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.
- Self-destructive behaviours, such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide.
If you know someone in serious distress or danger, don’t ignore the problem. Get help right away.
Signs a Child is Bullying Others
Kids may be bullying others if they:
- Get into physical or verbal fights
- Have friends who bully others
- Are increasingly aggressive
- Get sent to the principal’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.
Effects of Bullying
Bullying can affect everyone —those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide. It is important to talk to kids to determine whether bullying — or something else — is a concern.
Kids Who are Bullied
Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
- Health complaints
- Decreased academic achievement — GPA and standardized test scores — and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the United States in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
Kids Who Bully Others
Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviours into adulthood. Kids who bully are more likely to:
- Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
- Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
- Engage in early sexual activity
- Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
- Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults
Kids who witness bullying are more likely to:
- Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs
- Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
- Miss or skip school
The Relationship between Bullying and Suicide
Media reports often link bullying with suicide. However, most youth who are bullied do not have thoughts of suicide or engage in suicidal behaviours.
Although kids who are bullied are at risk of suicide, bullying alone is not the cause. Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home, and trauma history.
Additionally, specific groups have an increased risk of suicide, including, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. This risk can be increased further when these kids are not supported by parents, peers, and schools. Bullying can make an unsupportive situation worse.