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Teens - bullying and being bullied

The path to becoming an adult is an exciting and busy time for teenagers. It is full of new experiences and challenges as teenagers begin to find out who they are and become more independent.  It can also be quite a testing time for parents. Many will have to cope with the mood swings and arguments that come with raising a teenager.  Once you’ve got through to your teen, it’s well worth it. Until then, if you are having a tough time coping, that’s totally normal. Here you can find all the guidance and support you need to get through this tricky but rewarding period.

Teens - bullying and being bullied

Read time: 5 minutes

Remember that as they become more independent teenagers are exposed to more risks. Like alcohol or pressure from peers to act in ways that seem out of character. These risks can make them more vulnerable to other risks. Exploitation or violence, for example.

At the same time teenagers have lots of expectations on them - from home, from school and from their peers. We expect them to act like young adults, yet they are often treated like children. So if you're concerned your teen does have a problem or is in trouble, it's important that you seek help. Don't just wait for them to grow out of it - you could be leaving them vulnerable.

The good news is there is lots of help available. And there is lots of information here to support you.

What is bullying?

Bullying is a problem that can affect children at any age. With teenagers, bullying often becomes less physical and more emotional or mental. This means the signs can be harder to spot. But don't worry. Here you should find the guidance to help you deal with your teenager's bullying problem.

Bullying is the repeated act of hurting or upsetting someone on purpose.

Forms of bullying include:

  • Verbal - spoken insults and threats.
  • Physical - acts of violence and damaging belongings.
  • Indirect - such as spreading nasty rumours or leaving someone out of group activities.
  • Manipulation - where one person controls another without them realising it.

Bullying during teenage years is often a bit more complicated that childhood bullying. For example, teenage bullies often threaten their victim's reputation or social status. As these are very important to teenagers, this can be very difficult and upsetting!

What is cyberbullying?

Technology is a far bigger part of teenagers' lives now than it was during our time! The internet and social media have given teenagers new ways of connecting. Sadly, they have also helped introduce a new form of bullying.

Cyberbullying is where an individual uses technology to harass or embarrass a person. This can include abusive messages, name calling and threats. A popular collective term for acts of cyberbullying is 'trolling'.

How does bullying affect teenagers?

Most teenagers aren't chatty at the best of times! Getting a teenager to open up about being bullied can be difficult. Some will even try to hide signs that they are being bullied from you. This is often because they fear getting an adult involved will make things worse.

Your teenager might not want you to notice it. But there are several warning signs that might show they are being bullied. These include:

  • Being anxious all the time
  • Becoming removed from their friends
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Performing poorly at school
  • Unwilling to go to school#
  • Often complaining of feeling ill
  • Unexplained injuries and/or missing belongings

If any of these signs sound familiar, don't worry. You've just taken the first step towards helping your teenager beat the bullies.

Why do some teenagers bully?

By their teenage years, many children who bullied will have grown out of this habit. But plenty of teenagers still feel the need to bully others. This can be for various reasons. Many are to do with the pressures that teenagers feel within peer groups.

These include:

  • Trying to win respect or attention from friends
  • Fear of being rejected if they don't join in
  • Having low self-esteem and feeling the need to control others to feel good
  • Needing to take out angry feelings
  • Growing up around bullying and violence
  • Being a victim of bullying themselves

Why is my teenager being bullied?

If your teenager is being bullied, it's important to remind them that it is not their fault. Teenage bullying sometimes has more complicated origins than childhood bullying.
Teenagers do bully based on someone being 'different'. But there may be a longer history of hostility between the bully and their target.

Teenage bullies often target those they see as different, maybe due to their:

  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Ability
  • Disability
  • Weight
  • Looks
  • Social class
  • Race
  • Religion

Reputation and looks are important during teenager years. So they're sensitive topics for most teens. This makes teenagers very open to mental and emotional bullying. Teens also become more aware of the impact of certain differences, such as gender or race. This adds another level of sensitivity that can be used by bullies.

How to help your teen deal with bullying

Bullying is an issue that needs to be dealt with very carefully. Of course, you will have the urge to protect your teenager. But remember, being secretive is probably their way of protecting themselves.

If you suspect your teen is being bullied, let them know you're there to help if they need you. If it turns out that they have been bullied, remember to focus on their feelings. Let them know them that you won't do anything to make matters worse. Otherwise, you could cause them further stress.

Top tips

Read time: 4 minutes

If your teenager is being bullied

Sometimes it can take time to work out how to resolve a situation in which your child is being bullied. Perhaps you feel powerless and upset yourself and can't imagine there is a solution. It's important to let your child know that you are taking it seriously, and that you will find a way of it stopping. You could talk to your child's teacher, pastoral lead or head of year. You might ask "what needs to happen to make sure my child doesn't get bullied?"

Being bullied can have long term effects on self-esteem and mental health. So keep working away at it with the school until it is sorted out. Reach out to a parents helpline if you need support during this process. It is worth it.

  • Stay calm. You may be upset or even angry yourself. But make sure you base your actions on your teen's wellbeing and not your own feelings.
  • Know the facts. It may help to keep a diary of events, including what happened, how often and who was involved.
  • Comfort them. Let them know that you will support them. Remind them that you won't take any action that they haven't agreed to. And that it's not their fault they are being bullied.
  • Have a conversation. Talk about the options and ask your teen what they want to happen next.
  • Speak to the school. Share the facts with your teen's school and agree a plan for how the bullying will be managed. Your teen may or may not want to be involved in this. Don't approach the bully's parents.
  • Don't fight back. Don't tell your teen to retaliate. If they do, and it comes to the school's attention, your teen may be seen as the troublemaker.

If your teenager is a victim of cyberbullying

  • Don't bait the bullies. Encourage your teen not to respond. This makes sure the situation doesn't get any worse than it already is.
  • Save evidence. The silver lining with cyberbullying is the evidence is right there. Screenshot and save copies of the bullying messages or posts.
  • Report it. Share this evidence with your teenager's school. If the bully doesn't go to their school, you can still report them to the social media site administrators. They will look into it.
  • Be careful. Take steps to prevent cyberbullying. You should encourage your teen to be careful about who they share information with. You can also agree on safe privacy settings on the social media sites that they use.

If your teenager has bullied someone else

If your teen is bullying others, it's important to address it. Leaving it will cause upset for others. And it could make your child's relationships less satisfying as an adult. Again, reach out and find support from others.

  • It can be quite shocking and upsetting to find that your teenager has bullied someone. Try not to get angry. Remember that bullying is usually a sign that something's not right in somebody's life. This might be at home or at school.
  • Speak to your teenager to try and understand their actions. Ask them if they are coping at school and with their friends. Let them know that you are there to help if they have any problems.
  • Of course, you must also remind them why their behaviour is wrong. Encourage them to imagine themselves in their victim's shoes. Let them know that, while you love them, you don't want to find that they have been bullying again.

Reach out and talk with your teen's school. Ask for their help in helping them find different ways of communicating with their peers. Perhaps you could say to your child's teacher, pastoral lead or head of year "What needs to happen to make sure my child is supported not to bully anymore?"

Change can happen. Perhaps they are struggling with their learning. Bullying may be the one area they are feeling some control in life. Perhaps they are upset or angry or bothered by something that is not yet understood. Perhaps they are not understanding the social cues between their peers. Addressing their learning needs, emotional needs or social needs may reduce the bullying.

Information from external websites

Anti-bullying alliance have a reassuring page for children who are being bullied


Bullying UK has a number of helpful articles offering advice to parents on bullying


Childline has a good selection of information for you and your child on the different types of bullying and what to do


Ditch the label has a bullying support hub. This website is full of helpful information for young people and will be useful for parents too.


Kidscape has lots of advice for parents on bullying. They also have positive advice for young people on bullying,


National Bullying Helpline has as section for your child to help them understand what bullying is and how to stop it. They also have a section for parents that offers help and advice on dealing with bullying.


NSPCC has a section on bullying and cyberbullying that explains what bullying is, how it can affect your child and how to deal with it.


Safe Space Health UK is a website for young people aged 11 - 14 in Surrey. It offers helpful information about emotional health, lifestyle choices, relationships, keeping safe, growing up and being okay with being different.


Relate has a helpful section on teens and bullying - what to look out for and how to help. And a handy section on cyberbullying and trolling - including how to protect your teen online.


SupportLine have information for children and parents on bullying


The Mix offers essential support for under 25's on a range off issues, including bullying


Young Minds has a helpful section on bullying for young people

Struggling and need to talk?

For you

Action for Children offer 1:1 chat with a parenting coach (Mon - Fri). If they are closed you can leave a message and a parenting coach will get back to you within 3 working days.


Family Lives have a free, confidential helpline, offering emotional support, information, advice and guidance on any aspect of parenting and family life. Call the Family Lives helpline on 0808 800 2222 (Monday to Friday from 9am to 9pm and on weekends from 10am to 3pm).


Kidscape offer friendly, impartial, non-judgemental information, advice and support to parents, carers and family members who are concerned about their child or young person being bullied. Call the Parent Advice Line (PAL) on 020 7823 5430. Calls are charged at normal rates. You can also contact them via WhatsApp on 07496 682785 or email parentsupport@kidscape.org.uk


SupportLine provides a confidential helpline offering emotional support to any individual on any issue, including bullying. It is open to any individual of any age. Call 01708 765200 or email info@supportline.org.uk


For your teen

Child and Family Health Surrey offer a text service called ChatHealth, a confidential school nurse messaging service for young people aged 11-19. Young people can contact their school nurse in confidence by text. The Chat Health text number is: 07507 329 951 (Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm). All of the issues discussed are confidential unless a child's safety, or that of others, is at risk. The school nurses will always encourage young people to discuss issues with their parents or guardians.


Childline have a free and confidential helpline for children. You could encourage your child to call 0800 1111 if they need to speak to someone - open 7 days a week from 7.30am - 3.30am. Childline also have a 1-2-1 counsellor chat for children who don't want to speak on the phone - like Amy in the video below.


The National Bullying Helpline also has a free helpline for children who are being bullied. Your child can call 0300 3230169 if they need to speak to someone.


SupportLine provides a confidential helpline offering emotional support to any individual on any issue, including bullying. It is open to any individual of any age. Call 01708 765200 or email info@supportline.org.uk

Useful videos on bullying

In this Childline video, Amy shares her story of being bullied on Facebook

View on YouTube

Anti-bullying Alliance has a very short video with 3 top tips if you think someone is being bullied. They also have a video for young people featuring 6 things to do if you are being bullied and one suggesting 5 things to do if you're being bullied online.


Childline has a video you might want to watch with your teen or suggest they watch on standing up to bullying


The Families Under Pressure video collection offers a great series of short top tips videos on managing behaviour and help with negative emotions. Perfect for when your family leave you feeling frazzled!

Helpful tools and apps

Action for Children has a quick guide to spotting if your teen has low self-esteem


Childline has loads of tools to help your teen cope if they feel low or overwhelmed. They might want to try the coping kit, or the mood journal or even the calm zone. There's loads more resources in this helpful toolbox. Why not suggest they download the Childline For Me App.


Facebook offer information on what your teen can do if they are bullied online.


Instagram also offer advice on reporting bullying.


Kooth is a free online counselling and mental well-being community for children and young people aged 11 - 18. Accessible through mobile, tablet and desktop 365 days a year on Monday to Friday from 12pm–10pm and Saturday and Sunday from 6pm until 10pm.
Your teen can sign up here


You might want to suggest your teen tries the MeeTwo App. it is free, and allows peer to peer support for 11-25 year olds in a forum monitored by trained adults. If your 12 year old posts a question, only other 12 year olds will see the post and be able to respond. Adults monitor questions and answers and hand the question to a counsellor if they feel the child needs more than peer support.

Download Meetwo from Google Play

Download MeeTwo from App Store


NSPCC has a great guide on positive parenting.


Reading Well suggest the book Bullies, Cyber Bullies and Frenemies by Michelle Elliott may help your teen understand and deal with bullying.


The Mix offers a Crisis Text Line for under 25s. Let your teen know if they can't cope and are worried about their feelings they can text THEMIX to 85258 for instant help. The service runs 24/7 and is free.


Surrey's Family Learning and Adult Learning teams have developed a family wellbeing resource, with lots of tips on looking after yourself and your family during these challenging times.


Young Minds has a useful guide for parents on spotting and stopping bullying and supporting your child.

Online parenting guides

Surrey residents get free access to three online guides that include top tips from childcare, education and NHS health experts.

How to register

Registration is quick and easy. Go to the OurPlace website and use the access code 'ACORN' to get your free guides.

Access to the guides is unlimited with no expiry date, so you can return as and when you need and want to. Why not watch the Child and Family Health video to find out more.

Community support, courses and local help

Choose the area you live in for local services. Please note that due to coronavirus (Covid-19) very few community services are currently running.

BETA: We would really appreciate your feedback to help us improve and grow the service. We're listening!

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Date published: 22 Apr 2021