How to stop cyberbullying and protect your child from its effects
New technology has made it easier for bullies to reach their victims. If you think your child is being affected, use our action checklist for advice on how to support and protect your child from cyberbullying.
What is cyberbullying?
If your child has a mobile phone, a games console, uses social networking sites, instant messenger programs or simply has their own email address, they could become the target of a cyberbully. This might mean they receive abusive emails, texts or comments on Facebook – or that images or videos of them are circulated online without their consent.
Cyberbullying is on the rise. Since January 2009, the UK charity Family Lives has seen calls to its bullying helpline increase by 13%, while calls specifically about cyberbullying have soared by 77%. Appearance is a common catalyst for cyberbullying attacks – and girls experience it twice as much as boys, according to The protection of children online: a brief scoping review to identify vulnerable groups published by the Child Wellbeing Research Centre.
Cyberbullies often focus on looks
Many forms of cyberbullying focus on how young people's clothes, hair and body look in the pictures and videos they post online. Being the target of persistent teasing about their appearance can have a detrimental impact on a young person’s self-esteem. If it starts to impact your child's life choices – from the clothes they wear to the pictures they’re willing to share – then take action.
Talk with your child about the situation, decide actions to resolve the problem together and help develop online behaviour to protect them from cyberbullies. Much of their life will be conducted online or via their mobile phone, so developing protective strategies to deal with online criticism or bullying is important for lifelong self-esteem.
Recognize there’s a problem
It can be hard to detect this kind of bullying. Talk to your child about how they use technology. You can’t police their every move, but by being aware of sites they like and games they play, you’ll notice if they suddenly change their habits – a sign that something is up
Share your experience
Talk to your child about why people bully and help them learn from your personal experiences as well as their own observations
Engage positively with the issue
Discuss how the comments are making them feel and give alternative points of view. For example, your child may hate being teased about their hair colour, but the same colour could be one of your own favourite features
Reassure them it’s not their fault
Talk to them about why people bully. Help them see there’s no need to change their appearance or try to conform in response.
If you think the issue needs raising with their school, or even the police, discuss a course of action together so they feel in control
Use online tools
Use ‘block’ or ‘report’ function against the bully – most social networking sites now have them. Some websites have buttons that let you report incidents directly to the National Crime Agency's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) safety centre
Save as much evidence of the bullying as you can, from text messages and emails to screenshots
Don’t tackle the bully directly
Avoid responding to the bully – it will provoke them to continue. Instead, keep a record of incidents, show it to someone else and then turn off the device.
- Talk to your child about how they’re feeling. Have friends had the same experience? How did they deal with it?
- They might want to talk to others in her situation in an online forum like the one at BeatBullying UK
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