U5: Early warning signs







Responding, Understanding


Relationship skills, Responsible decision-making, Self-awareness, Social awareness


Ages 11-13, Ages 14-18


Timing: 45 minutes

Learning outcomes: learners will be able to…

  • Identify signs in others that indicate they may be being bullied or facing difficulties online.
  • Consider practical strategies for how they can support someone in need online. 

Key vocabulary: cyberbullying, emotions, strategies, signs, concerns, support, help.

Resources: Google Slides, ‘Sign spotter’ cards (slide 5), scenario cards (slide 6)

Key questions:

  • How could you tell if your friend was OK?
    • How could you tell offline?
    • How could you tell if you were only communicating online?
  • How would you know if a friend was being bullied online or offline?
    • How would their behaviour change?
  • What strategies could you use to help someone being bullied?
  • How would you get help for someone being bullied?
  • What advice would you give to someone being bullied?

Download the activity’s PowerPoint presentation

Starter activity (10 minutes)
Are you OK?

Using slide 4, ask learners to work in pairs to spend a few minutes listing all the ways they would know if a friend was OK (e.g. happy, contended, feeling positive) or not OK (e.g. sad, upset, lonely, scared, worried, etc.).

Learners should consider:

  • Verbal signs (what they say and how they say it e.g. tone of voice)
  • Non-verbal signs (body language, appearance, facial expressions)
  • Behaviour (changes in their typical behaviour, what they are/are not doing).

Encourage learners to share their ideas – are the differences between spotting these changes online and spotting them offline? How and why?

Activity (25 minutes)
Spotting the signs

Provide pairs of learners with a set of ‘sign spotter’ cards.

Show the cards on slide 5 and briefly discuss them. These cards show different changes in behaviour that might indicate that someone is being cyberbullied.

Ask learners if they have any suggestions for other signs that might indicate someone is being cyberbullied. They can record their ideas on the blank cards provided in the set.

Provide each pair of learners with one of the scenario cards on slide 6. Explain that they must read the scenario and then select which signs might be present that would help them know that person was being cyberbullied. They should base their thinking on the premise that they do not witness any of the cyberbullying, so their only clues would be how the cyberbullying target is behaving.

After selecting the signs that they think might give some clues, learners must then consider what they would do next in their cyberbullying scenario e.g. tell a trusted adult, send a message to their friend offering to talk, confront the bully, etc.

As a whole group, ask each pair in turn to read out their scenario and feed back which signs they think might be present, as well as what they would do in response to try to help the person/people involved. Encourage other learners to contribute further suggestions for how they could help in each scenario.

Plenary (10 minutes)

So far, learners have treated all the signs as being equal. However, in reality, this isn’t always the case.

Ask pairs of learners to take their sign cards and sort them in order of likelihood from most likely to least likely.

As a group, discuss how each pair has ranked their cards and encourage them to explain why they think some signs are more likely than others.

Are there any signs that all pairs have ranked highly?