Cyberbullying is a very real – and prevalent – issue. When parents learn more about cyberbullying, they are more available to help their child if it becomes a problem.
Cyberbullying can sometimes be difficult for parents and carers to understand, especially if it wasn’t around when they were teenagers themselves. It is unfortunately quite common these days, but there are steps you can take to help protect your child from it.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to bully someone, usually by sending hurtful messages, pictures or abusive comments. It can be very damaging to the victim, resulting in poor marks at school and low self-esteem,. In serious cases it can lead to anxiety, depression, and even self-harm.
Your child may be reluctant to discuss cyberbullying with you for a variety of reasons, such as embarrassment, fear of retaliation, social stigma and not wanting to draw attention. If you’re unsure if your child is being bullied, read our guide to finding out.
While those who experience cyberbullying often say they feel powerless to do anything about it, there are steps you can take to help your child.
Talk to your child about cyberbullying and internet safety
Casually introduce cyberbullying as a topic of conversation, such as over a family meal. Explore your child’s understanding and experience of it. Consider asking an older sibling or close relative to talk to your child about the best ways to stay safe online.
Discuss the need to keep any personal or sensitive information private rather than putting it on social media platforms. Do some research about privacy settings on different platforms, and go through your learnings with your child.
As part of your research, pass on resources to your child, such as eSafety’s Cyberbullying page.
Step your child through how to respond to cyberbullying
If your child lets you know they are being cyberbullied, or you suspect they are, you can share information on how to respond.
This may include:
- Thinking carefully before responding — the person doing the cyberbullying is looking for a reaction, but it’s not helpful to give it to them
- Keeping evidence of cyberbullying by taking screenshots of the upsetting comments, pictures or messages
- Deleting the offensive posts or messages once they’ve been documented
- Trying to stop frequently checking posts and take a break from social media
- Unfriending or blocking the person making hurtful comments
- Changing the privacy settings on their social media accounts
Be there to support and listen to your child’s experience
The most important thing to do as a parent is to open up a conversation about cyberbullying, listen empathetically and offer to help where possible.
Try to get a clear picture of what’s been happening and how long it’s been going on for. Let your child know that it’s not their fault, and that you’re there to support them.
Report serious cyberbullying
Serious cyberbullying can be reported to various official channels. You can:
- Get in touch with whatever social media platform you are using such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and tell them about your cyberbullying experiences
- Gather any evidence you may have such as screenshots of the posts or comments, and what has been said to your child
- Talk to your child’s school about the cyberbullying and ask what can be done
- Lodge a complaint with the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. You can make a report anonymously. You’ll just need to explain or show how the material is offensive or possibly illegal, and provide evidence such as screenshots
Cyberbullying can be very distressing for your child to experience, but there is help available. Remind them that they are not in this alone, and you will help support and protect them as much as you can.
If you need additional support, Relationships Australia NSW offers a range of counselling services to help you decide on how to best move forward from this situation.