Cyberbullying is when someone uses technology, such as the internet or a mobile device to bully others.
Cyberbullying includes things such as sending nasty text messages, excluding others from messaging apps, ‘hacking’ into someone else’s social media account, pretending to be them, ‘tagging’ people into statuses or embarrassing photos about them. ‘Indirect’ cyberbullying is bullying where a name isn’t mentioned, however it is obvious to all involved who is being talked about eg. ‘You know whose dress is disgusting’.
Being a victim of cyberbullying can be very distressing for a young person as messages can be sent anonymously and it is difficult to know who the bully is. Moreover, the bullying doesn’t always end once the victim has left wherever the bully might be (eg. school) as it can continue 24/7. When messages and embarrassing photos are shared online and not directly to the person, there are often lots of bystanders and victims can be very upset to see how quickly an embarrassing image or rumour can circulate online.
Tips to help with cyberbullying
- Don’t deny access to technology: this may prevent your child from speaking to you about cyberbullying. When we asked a group of pupils about why they wouldn’t tell someone, if they were being cyberbullied, their main response was that they were worried the technology that they use on a daily basis would be taken away from them.
- Discuss cyberbullying with your child: ask them what their understanding of cyberbullying is, and how it is different to physical and face to face bullying. Often young people can confuse bullying with ‘banter’ and are reluctant to talk to others for fear of being seen to ‘not be able to take a joke’. Ask your children how they would react if they were being cyberbullied, or if their friend was being cyberbullied. Explore the safety tools available together to learn how to block and report people or messages.
- Save the evidence: encourage your child to save the evidence of any messages they receive. They can do this by taking a screenshot of what is happening on the screen, or keeping the messages they’ve received. You can easily capture a screenshot on most smartphones and tablets by holding down several buttons on the device together (eg. the Home button and Power button). By doing this, they will have proof when they report the cyberbullying.
- Don’t reply: most of the time the person targeting them is looking for a reaction when they’re teasing or calling someone nasty names. Tell your child not to reply, if they do they’re giving them exactly what they want. Instead, they should tell an adult they trust about what they have seen. Reassure your child that if things have gone too far, even if they are at fault too, they should always come to talk to you or a trusted adult, and you will try to figure out together how best to resolve the situation.
Childnet has also written cyberbullying guidance for schools. Parents might find it interesting to read the ‘understanding cyberbullying’ section, as well as the ‘what young people have told us’ section.