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Unlike playground or face-to-face bullying, cyberbullying doesn’t have any boundaries. With the advent of digital technology including social media, a child could be bullied from wherever they have access to the internet. Cyberbullies may act anonymously and can inflict significant emotional trauma on a child in their own bedroom for example – a place that should be the safest of all.
In 2015, Vodafone conducted one of the largest global surveys into cyberbullying. The results were definitive – one in five teenagers reported cyberbullying. The survey, which spanned 11 countries and almost 5,000 teens, showed that more than half of teenagers think cyberbullying is worse than face-to-face bullying and 43 per cent consider it to be a more significant problem for young people than drug abuse. You can read more about Vodafone’s global survey on cyberbullying.
Kids, teens and young adults can call the Kids Helpline.
Children that are being targeted by bullies might alter their standard behaviour or their mood might change - your child may lose interest in everyday activities or they could change their routine. You might notice they talk less about their friendship circles and could even discuss the fact that they have no friends.
The best approach is to have a supportive conversation with your child while being sensitive to their feelings. Teenagers who are being bullied might be feeling vulnerable and alone – so it’s reassuring for them to hear that you’re there for them. Listen to what they have to say and remain calm through the conversation – resist the urge to react or approach the bully yourself. If your child knows the bully or if you suspect it’s another child at the same school, contact teachers and discuss the situation with them.
Ultimately, advise your child not to respond to the bully. Save all correspondence including text messages, emails and screenshots of social media websites as proof or evidence. Also remove the bully from your child’s friends list and set the social media profile to private.
The anonymity of cyberspace may drive some children to engage in bullying behaviour that they wouldn’t necessarily engage with in a face-to-face situation. These children feed on peers to champion their actions and to join their behaviour. If you suspect that your child is the instigator of bullying behaviour or an active participant, have an open and honest conversation about why their actions are unacceptable. Always reassure your child that you love them but inform them that the bullying must cease. Some children may not realise the effect cyberbullying can have on others so it’s important to discuss the consequences. It’s also a good idea to tell them that there are legal implications.
If you’re under 18, the eSafey Commissioner can help you to report cyberbullying, find someone for you to chat with and also provide additional advice on how to handle bullying.