How to tell if your child is being bullied (or is a bully)
It can be incredibly hard to know when a child is a victim of bullying – or a perpetrator. So what are the signs to look out for?
Bullying is one of the biggest fears for parents when kissing their child goodbye at the school gate for the first time.
Will their son or daughter become the target of harmful bullying – or turn into a tormenter themselves?
In Australia, research shows up to a quarter of students will be bullied, with a 50 per cent chance they will also be victimised at high school if they are targeted in primary school.
It’s enormously difficult for parents to detect because as kids move from middle primary to secondary school, they increasingly separate from their families
Flinders University research Professor Phillip Slee says bullying peaks around the end of primary and the beginning of high school, as peer group pecking orders get disrupted and children begin maturing sexually.
“It’s enormously difficult for parents to detect because as kids move from middle primary to secondary school, they increasingly separate from their families,” he says.
“The peer group becomes much more important, and they are more likely to talk to their friends than the parent.”
- Related story: How to talk to children about important issues
He says one study found that 80 per cent of parents are confident their child would confide in them if they were being bullied – but less than one third of secondary students actually did so.
To try to take away some of the guesswork for parents, here are Prof Slee’s tips on how to tell if your child is affected by bullying:
Signs your child might be a victim of bullying
- Sudden changes in their behaviour, like leaving earlier for school and arriving home later.
- Mood swings and anxiety.
- School refusal.
- Complaining about health issues like stomach upsets or headaches.
- Mystery phone calls that the child will not discuss.
- The appearance of marks or bruises.
- A rise or drop in the amount of time spent online.
- Reluctance to talk about activities at school.
Signs your child might be a bully
- Difficulty managing emotions or behaviour.
- Poor conflict resolution skills.
- Quick to get angry or upset.
- Making negative comments about school.
- Emphasising the need to control or dominate others.
These may indicate another problem other than bullying, so experts always advise talking with your child.
Need more help? Take a look at our tips on how to help your child if they are being bullied or go to Flinders University’s Çhild Adolescent, Psychological and Educational Resources website.
Written by Elissa Doherty.