Sharp Rise in Childline Calls

The number of children and young people needing counselling about online bullying has increased by 88% over five years, according to NSPCC helpline, Childline whilst children as young as nine have contacted children “petrified” about the possibility of a terror attack.

Childline said it counselled more than 4,500 children across the UK about online bullying over the past year, up by 13% from the previous year whilst the NSPCC says since 2015, it has handled 660 counselling sessions about terrorism around the country – with children reporting panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia and nightmares.

The worrying figures, released at the start of Anti-Bullying Week revealed that childrenas young as seven are becoming victims of “round the clock” cyberbullying.

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline, said the report needs to act as a wake-up call.

“Bullying can wreck young people’s lives, especially now that the bullies don’t stop at the school gates,” she said.

“Cyber-bullying can follow them home until it becomes a persecution they cannot escape.

“It is imperative that adults, parents and teachers, intervene to protect them, because we have learned over the years from Childline callers that bullying does not stop on its own, left alone it gets worse.

“Schools must take this problem seriously, and above all children must ask for help,” she added.

Children explained how they were being tormented  by malicious and hurtful messages from which they felt there was no escape. Comments posted on their social media profiles, blogs and online pictures ranged from bullying and abusive words about how a young person looked to death threats and in the most extreme cases directly telling them to go and kill themselves.

Coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, the report showed that in 25% of counselling sessions, children were counselled for a mental health or well-being issue such as low self-esteem, self-harm, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Children and young people who are bullied also have fewer friendships, have problems adjusting to school, and don’t do as well, which in turn affects their ability to fulfil their potential.

Anti-Bullying Week us the vital opportunity to raise awareness of what has been and continues to be a serious problem amongst children and young people and to highlight ways of preventing and responding to it.

A 13-year-old girl, is quoted in the report as “waking up scared to go to school.”

“I get in and log onto my social networking site and there are horrible messages everywhere,” she said. “It’s like there’s no escaping the bullies. I’m struggling to cope with how upset I feel, so sometimes I cut myself just to have a release, but it’s not enough. I can’t go on like this.”

One 14-year-old girl said: “I am being bullied by a girl at school. She has taken photos of me and posted them on Snapchat calling me fat and ugly and how I will never have a boyfriend. I have been having suicidal thoughts as this girl is really popular and she has turned my whole year against me.”

Advice given by young people on dealing with bullying includes:

  • Tell an adult you can trust
  • Keep a diary of what the bullies do including dates and descriptions
  • Write a letter to your headteacher
  • Don’t react, show the bullies you don’t care and they will often lose interest

Additionally it is the first year that the service has specifically recorded contacts concerning terrorism following last year’s Paris Attacks and the atrocities in Brussels, Orlando, Nice, and Munich this year which all triggered a higher volume of calls.

Where the age was known, a fifth of contacts about terrorism were from children aged 11 and under, while girls were twice as likely as boys to seek support from the service.

The charity said young people were “acutely aware” of atrocities worldwide, talking to counsellors about Middle Eastern conflicts, and often mentioning Islamic State.

Many feared the outbreak of war and frequently told Childline that they were scared of a terror attack hurting their families.

One 11-year-old boy said: “I’m so scared at the moment with everything going on. I constantly feel anxious about terrorism and think that Isis is going to attack the UK soon. I am really worried that they will get someone in my family. I haven’t been sleeping because it is all I can think about.”

A 14-year-old girl, said: “My anxiety is becoming worse after the terrorist attacks. I’m really worried something like this could happen in London.”

Matt Forde, National Head of Services for NSPCC Scotland, said: “These vicious attacks have seared themselves into the consciousness of children, who tell us how petrified they are of these sadistic atrocities happening on UK shores.

“The past 12 months have been stained by these bloody events and it is little wonder that young people are so frightened about terrorism.

“Sadly we now live in a world where the months are punctuated by these attacks, so it is vital that we do not brush young peoples’ fears aside.

“Instead, we must listen to their worries and reassure them that there are people doing everything they can to keep us all safe.

“Childline is always here to listen to a child, and our helpline can offer adults advice on how to comfort and talk to children about difficult topics.”

Advice from the service includes helping parents talk to their children about terrorism:

What to do if your child is worried about terrorism:

  • Ask them about what they know and how they feel about it
  • Agree such attacks are frightening and sad, but reassure them that adults are doing everything they can to stop these incidents
  • Avoid complicated, worrying explanations, as children may not be able to process the information and it could leave them more frightened and confused

The NSPCC, which is currently working with the Royal Foundation Cyber-bullying Taskforce to develop new tools and technology for children and young people, has also created a dedicated area about online bullying on the Childline website where young people can share their experiences and offer support to their peers through message boards.

The NSPCC have two helplines:

  • Children and young people can contact Childline for free confidential support and advice, 24 hours-a-day on 0800 1111 or at
  • Adults who want advice on how to talk to their child about terrorism can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.
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Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

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