1. Pre-teens
  2. Behaviour
  3. Concerns

Cyberbullying: spotting the signs and helping your child

8-18 years

Cyberbullying can be hard to spot, so it’s important to know what signs to look for and how to help your child handle cyberbullying. 

Cyberbullying: how to spot the signs

Cyberbullying can be tough to spot.

This is because many young people who are being bullied might not realise what’s happening at first. Also, they sometimes don’t want to tell teachers or parents, perhaps because they feel embarrassed. They might be scared that it’ll get worse if an adult tries to do something about it, or they might be worried about losing their computer or mobile phone privileges.

If you’re concerned that your child is being cyberbullied, you can watch for changes in your child’s school and social life, technology use, and emotions and behaviour. Remember that you know your child and how he usually behaves, even if you find it hard to keep up with the technologies he uses and the different ways that cyberbullying can happen.

Here are some cyberbullying warning signs to watch for.

School and social life
Your child:

  • refuses to go to school
  • starts getting lower marks than usual
  • doesn’t want to see friends
  • doesn’t want to take part in her usual sports and other activities
  • avoids group gatherings.

Technology use
Your child:

  • is upset during or after using the internet
  • spends much longer than usual online, or refuses to use the computer or mobile phone at all
  • stops what he’s doing on the computer if you go past.

Emotions and behaviour
Your child:

  • is more moody than usual
  • shows obvious changes in behaviour, sleep or appetite
  • gets unusually angry at home
  • feels sick or complains of frequent headaches or stomach aches.
If you’re worried your child might be the one doing the bullying, you could start by talking with your child about being a responsible digital citizen and treating other people with respect online. Acknowledging that your child might be the one behaving this way is hard, but taking action is an important step towards getting it to stop.

Helping children and teenagers handle cyberbullying

If children and teenagers are being bullied online, it’s great for them to feel they have some power to resolve the problem themselves. These six steps are a good way for your child to G.E.T.R.I.D. of a cyberbully.

You might need to help your child work through these steps and report a cyberbullying incident. Your support might make the difference, because some teenagers feel too emotionally exhausted to report incidents themselves.

1. G – go block or delete the person engaging in cyberbullying 
Blocking someone from friend lists helps stop the person engaging in cyberbullying from posting or uploading offensive content about your child.

If the cyberbullying is happening through text messages or phone calls, you can ask the service provider to monitor the calls or texts. If necessary, the service provider can contact the sender, because mobile phone holders breach their contracts if they use their phones to bully. If necessary, you can change the phone number.

2. E – ensure you keep evidence of bullying 
Save and print out any bullying messages. Use the print screen key or command on your computer keyboard. You can also take a screenshot of a mobile phone screen.

3. T – tell someone 
If your child shares feelings with a parent, older sibling, relative, teacher or close friend as soon as possible, it’ll help her feel less isolated.

4. R – report abuse 
Reporting bullying to web administrators is usually as easy as clicking on a ‘report abuse’ link on a website. The website will remove the offensive content, but this can take time. If the material isn’t removed in 48 hours, you can lodge a complaint through the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.

If your child has been threatened, he should also report it to the local police. If your child is in immediate danger, he should call 000.

There could be consequences for the person engaging in bullying if you report the abuse.

It’s a good idea for you and your child to look together at the social media sites she uses to make sure she knows how to report abuse.

5. I – initiate control
If your child takes control of the cyberbullying situation, she can feel safer and break the cycle. A big part of taking control is reporting the abuse, but not retaliating or responding aggressively to the cyberbully. In fact, it’s best for your child not to engage with the cyberbully at all. Retaliating or even telling the bully to stop can make the bullying worse.

6. D – delete the bullying message 
After you’ve saved evidence of the bullying, delete the message or post. Don’t forward it, repost it, retweet it or send it to other people in any way because they might forward it too. 

You might like to check out our illustrated guide to stopping cyberbullying. It’s a handy reference that you could print out for both you and your child to use.

Helping teenagers who have been cyberbullied

Your child won’t always be able to solve cyberbullying problems on his own. It’s important to step in if you’re concerned. Your loving support is vital to your child’s wellbeing:

Here are some ways you can offer immediate practical and emotional help and support:

  • Just listen to your child to start with. Jumping in too quickly to fix the problem can sometimes make it worse, so be sensitive to your child’s needs.
  • Let your child know that you’ll help if she wants you to, and that things will get better if the problem is brought out in the open.
  • If you need to get your child’s school involved, make sure your child knows and that he has a say in the process. It might help him to know that telling a teacher is a good idea if he thinks someone from the school is involved.
  • Stay calm and resist the temptation to ban your child from using the internet or her mobile phone. Banning online access could make your child less likely to share her online problems.
  • Get professional help if your child seems distressed or withdrawn. Your child can contact Kids Helpline – Teens by phoning 1800 551 800, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Video

Cyberbullying: talking with teenagers

2:24

Izzy is a teenager who has been bullied on a social media site. She doesn’t want to go to school, and her parents are worried.

Talking to teenagers about cyberbullying can be tricky. But sharing the load with your teenage child can help. This video demonstration with actors shows how to start an understanding and supportive conversation about cyberbullying.

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Last updated or reviewed
12-12-2016

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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