Online bullying can make young people feel alone, isolated and like there is no escape from it, but there are things that can be done to help and places they can go for help. In this blog we look at the things that parents and carers can do to support a young person who has experienced cyberbullying.
We have also written specific guidance for young people who have experienced online bullying.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is when an individual or group of people use technology to deliberately and repeatedly upset someone else. Cyberbullying can take a range of forms, from public statuses, posts, or images to private messages or group chats. Cyberbullying can also take the form of excluding someone, whether this is stopping them from joining a game or chat, or hiding them from being able to see stories or posts.
The online world can be a great place for discussion and sharing different opinions which can sometime lead to disagreements, however cyberbullying is different as it is a behaviour that specifically aims to hurt.
Although bullying is not a specific crime in the UK, there are laws that do relate to harassing or threatening behaviour.
What can I do?
If your child has come to you after they have experienced cyberbullying there are a few key things that you can do:
- Let them talk
Give them the space to share what they want to in their way and listen. Try to avoid the temptation to interrupt, prompt if necessary but let them do most of the talking.
- Don’t be shocked by what they tell you
If a child has built up the courage to seek help, they can be easily put off if they feel embarrassed or ashamed by the reaction they get. As parents, you may not always understand some of the things young people do online, but it is still key to understand the underlying behaviour and support them with what happens next.
- Don’t deny access to technology
When we speak to young people about the barriers they face when it comes to getting help they often share that they are worried that their device may be taken away from them. Reassure them that this won’t happen if they speak up about something that has been worrying them online.
- Encourage them not to retaliate
Although this can seem like the most tempting thing to do, it’s very important that you do not retaliate to the cyberbullying. Most of the time the person who is displaying bullying behaviour is looking for a reaction when they’re teasing or calling someone nasty names. Your child may wish to reply and ask the person to stop sending messages however this is not necessary and action can be taken without replying.
- Save the evidence
It’s important to keep the cyberbullying messages that a child has received, whether through taking screenshots or saving the messages on the device. Saving the messages allows you to have evidence when reporting the cyberbullying.
- Talk to their school
Schools play a vital role in the resolution of abusive online behaviours. They have anti-bullying and behavioural policies in place in order to provide a duty of care to all who attend. Take the evidence of bullying and any additional details about the context of the situation and length of time it has been going on for.
It is helpful to discuss this with your child before you take the action as you may want to speak to the school together.
- Talk to the police
If you think that your child is in immediate danger don’t hesitate to call the police. Equally, if there is a direct threat of violence or harm within any conversation then you may also wish to contact your local police for support. As parents, any incident involving children will be extremely emotive. The majority of bullying issues can be resolved satisfactorily with support from your child’s school.