Warning Signs

A culture of silence often surrounds bullying. Many children who are bullied never tell anyone.

Most bullying is not reported because children . . .

Don’t recognize it as bullying
Are embarrassed
Don’t want to appear weak
Believe they deserve it
Want to belong
Fear retaliation
Don’t know how to talk about it
Don’t have a trusted adult to confide in
Think adults won’t understand
Think nothing can be done about it

Just because you don’t see it, and children don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean bullying isn’t happening. Even when children fail to report bullying, they often show warning signs.

What are some warning signs of bullying?

Unexplained damage or loss of clothing and other personal items
Evidence of physical abuse, such as bruises and scratches
Loss of friends; changes in friends
Reluctance to participate in activities with peers
Loss of interest in favorite activities
Unusually sad, moody, anxious, lonely, or depressed
Problems with eating, sleeping, bed-wetting
Headaches, stomachaches, or other physical complaints
Decline in school achievement
Thoughts of suicide

Some children may withdraw, while others may get angry and seek revenge. Don’t assume the problem will go away on its own: Invite children to talk about what is bothering them. If you find out a child is being bullied, show support, help develop a response strategy, and follow up to make sure the bullying does not continue.

For more information on how to respond, see Strategies.