What children are telling us about bullying

Topics: Bullying Online safety

The experiences of young people contacting Childline about bullying in 2015/16

Bullying has been one of the top 5 concerns of children contacting Childline since 1989. It’s not a new problem, but over time we have seen changes in how, where, and when children are bullied. Children have told us about the effects of bullying and the difficulties involved in asking adults for help. We’ve also seen some powerful messages of support and advice from young people using Childline’s online message boards.

We have written this report to help people working with children to understand what children who are being bullied are experiencing, think about what support they need, and consider how to respond effectively.

Authors: NSPCC
Published: 2016

Key findings

  • Bullying is the second most common reason for boys and the third most common reason for girls to contact Childline. It makes up 9 per cent of all counselling sessions (25,740 sessions in 2015/16).
  • Bullying is the most common reason for children aged 11 and under to contact Childline; almost 1 in 4 sessions with this age group in 2015/16 were about bullying.
  • Physical bullying is the top bullying concern for children aged 11 and under; peer pressure is top for 12–15 year olds and online bullying for 16–18 year olds.
  • While overall, levels of counselling about bullying remain high, the way in which children are being bullied and what they are bullied about has changed over time.
  • Bullying affects academic performance and is linked to mental and physical health problems. In a quarter of counselling sessions about bullying, children also talked about mental health and wellbeing issues.
  • Childline also provides counselling to children who are worried about a friend or sibling who is being bullied, and to young people who are taking part in bullying behaviour themselves and seeking help on how to stop.
  • Despite efforts from schools and organisations to respond to and reduce bullying, some children are contacting us because they are afraid to speak out or because they have seen that speaking out can make things worse. Other children have told us that speaking out is the only way to tackle the problem.
  • Receiving support from peers or young people who have experienced bullying can be hugely beneficial both in terms of suggesting strategies that have worked and providing emotional support.


"Ever since the Paris attacks, I have been getting bullied really badly at school. I wear a headscarf and the bullies think that just because I am Muslim that I support ISIS. It’s gotten so bad that I have started to miss school, which I never do. The teachers can see what’s happening but they don’t seem to want to get involved or do anything about it. I just want to be treated like a human being and the same as everyone else."

(Girl, aged 15)

"A kid at my school calls me hurtful names every day and today he repeatedly hit me really hard in my face. It happened outside of school and another kid took a video of me being hit and has posted it on Instagram. I want it removed because now other people are being nasty to me online. I have reported it but they haven’t taken it off yet. I don’t want to involve the police or my family. I just want to deal with this on my own."

(Boy, aged 14)

"My parents bought me Minecraft and I have been playing online. Another user has been mean to me and using swear words. He destroyed a building I spent a lot of time building. I am feeling really sad and don’t want to repeat the bad words and tell my mum or dad and I don’t want to be mean back. What can I do?"

(Girl, aged 8) 


Please cite as: NSPCC (2016) What children are telling us about bullying. London: NSPCC.