Childhood bullying

Written by Becky Banham
Becky Banham
Counselling Directory Content Team

Last updated 12th March 2024 | Next update due 12th March 2027

Most people have been teased by a friend or a sibling at some point in their lives. It’s normally playful, friendly and both of you will find it funny. But, sometimes it’s not funny; there is a point when ‘teasing’ crosses a line. If it becomes hurtful, unkind and if it happens constantly, you’re being bullied.

What is bullying?

If someone is making you feel bad about yourself, causing you to be upset or physically hurting you, that is not OK. It doesn’t matter who is doing it, where it takes place, or why - bullying is wrong.

Bullying behaviour can be many different things. It could be:

  • being teased, put down or humiliated
  • having money or possessions taken
  • being ignored or left out
  • being hit, kicked or physically hurt
  • being threatened or intimidated

This behaviour may take place face-to-face, on your phone, through your games console, or online via social media. It might be one person, or it could be a group of people. It might be someone you don’t like, it could be someone very close to you, or someone that you do not know at all.. There are so many situations when and where bullying happens. The important thing to remember is that this behaviour is wrong.

Why am I being bullied?

There are so many reasons why people bully others. They might be unhappy with something in their own life and are taking it out on you. It may even be that their friends are bullies and they don’t want to feel left out. It's also likely that the bully is being (or has been) bullied themselves. Whatever the reason, it’s rarely simple. But that is no excuse for them to be taking it out on you. If you are being bullied, it can really help to speak to someone - a trusted adult, a parent or teacher, or even a friend. Asking for help and making the problem known is the first step to dealing with it.

Am I a bully?

If you are bullying others, you may be worried about talking to someone for fear of getting in trouble. But, speaking to someone may help you understand why you are doing it and take the necessary steps to stop bullying.

Recognising that what you have said or done was hurtful and wrong is the first step toward making things better. Apologising can go a long way in helping the other person feel comfortable around you. You might be able to move forwards with them and even carry on a friendship by doing this. But, you might find that the other person is unable to forgive you - their feelings have been hurt too much. It might be hard, but you have to accept and respect that. Always remember, words cannot be unsaid and actions cannot be undone.

Where does bullying happen?

Bullying at school

Bullying can turn school into a scary and lonely place. If it is getting in the way of your learning, or your enjoyment of school, something needs to change.

Your school should have an anti-bullying policy in place that will deal with the person, or people, in an appropriate way. You will not get in trouble or be laughed at for reporting bullying. If you feel uncomfortable about doing this, speak to a member of staff that you trust, or ask a friend to go with you.


Cyberbullying refers to any kind of bullying that takes place on your phone, tablet, games console, or online. It can include:

  • sending threatening or abusive messages via text, or social media (trolling)
  • creating and sharing embarrassing images or videos of you
  • hacking your personal accounts to send inappropriate messages
  • sending explicit messages, also known as sexting

If you’re being bullied online, there are things you can do to make it stop. You can find out more about online safety by reading our how to stay safe online page.

Bullying at home

While your home should be a safe, comfortable place where you spend time with family and friends, this isn’t always the case. It might be a sibling, a parent, or another member of your family - but someone is causing you to dread spending time at home.

If you aren’t able to confront the bully directly, or another member of your family, try speaking to a friend or someone at school that you can trust. They may be able to help you confront the bully, or give you emotional support to help you feel more positive.

How to overcome bullying

It can be hard but try to forget what the bullies have said to make you feel down, you are important, you are special and you deserve to be happy. Stay true to yourself - don’t let anything that bullies say or do to you change you in any way. You are perfect just as you are.

It can be hard to be brave, but bravery is what it takes to make the change to stop this from happening. Whether bravery comes in the form of confronting the bully directly, speaking to someone about what is happening to you, or reporting bullying behaviour - there are lots of ways to be brave. You don’t have to do anything on your own, though. There is lots of support available to you, just be sure to seek it.

Follow the advice that you would give to a friend if they were in your situation. What would you tell someone in your position?

Talk about it

If you’re under 16, talk to a trusted adult. That doesn’t always need to be your own parents or a teacher. It could be the parent of a friend or another relative. They might be able to help you resolve the situation, or can help to connect you with other resources, charities or professionals that can help.


If you’re over 16, and if you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, speaking to a professional may help. Counselling provides a safe space for you to discuss your concerns without fear of being judged.

A counsellor won’t be able to stop the bullies from acting out toward you. But, they can help you to process how you feel, to help you deal with any anger, frustration, or any other associated feelings. They might also be able to help you understand the mindset of the bully, to help you process why they might be doing this.

Anti-bullying resources

Bullying affects people in different ways, depending on the situation. Young people can be reluctant to talk about bullying so, as parents or caregivers, it can be difficult to know if they are struggling. If you’re worried, take a look at the following resources.

Spot the signs

children at school

Read more

Advice for teachers

teacher in class

Read more

Advice for parents

parents with child

Read more

Advice for employers

work meeting

Read more

Related topics

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