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Our Favourite Ways to Deal with Cyberbullying

In recognition of Anti-Bullying Week, we're highlighting the ever growing issue of cyberbullying and what parents can do to help


Anti-Bullying week runs from November 18th to 22nd 2013. This year we decided to team up with Jeremy Todd from the charity BullyingUK to highlight the impact of cyberbullying, as it is becoming more and more prevalent with the use of technology in everyday life.

In 2011 the charity BullyingUK saw calls relating to cyberbullying increase by 77% over a 12 month period. Cyberbullying can affect us all, regardless of age!

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through your mobile phone. Unfortunately nowadays, especially with increased use of social media, online gaming, and mobile phones, most young people will experience cyberbullying at some time.

Kids can become the target of cyberbullying, or can all too easily become a cyber-bully themselves.

Cyberbullying facts and dealing with online bullying

The effects of cyberbullying on kids and families

Cyberbullying can, and does, have a seismic effect on the families concerned. In an online survey, BullyingUK found that 43.5% of respondents aged between 11 and 16 had been bullied via social networks such as Facebook, Bebo, Myspace, and Twitter. 51% felt that blocking the bully from further contact or communication was a vital tool.

Like all bullying, cyberbullying can have a devastating impact on a child's confidence, happiness and self-esteem. These effects can be long lasting, and may have a negative impact on a child's performance at school.

Sometimes, children are bullied online by people they have met face-to-face, or even friends. Bullies may use online technology because it's more difficult to recognise senders, while others may take part by circulating videos and emails. For all involved, it can get out of hand very quickly as it's not easy to identify who is responsible, and children may find themselves caught up in the cyber mob mentality.

Causes for concern with new websites and technologies

Parents are now contacting BullyingUK and Family Lives to express their concern about new and ever emerging pernicious websites like AskFM.

Take an interest in what your children are looking at onlineThese sites enable any child - or adult - to see names, photographs and personal details of children as young as 13, and post comments or questions on their profile pages that range from insults to sexual advances and threats of violence.

It is deeply worrying that a website enables children and adults to post damaging or derogatory comments to young, potentially impressionable people. This is a child protection issue, and it needs to be addressed. If an adult was to take a child under the age of 16 into a house and show him or her pictures of young children and make inappropriate comments, they would be open for prosecution under the laws of the United Kingdom. Yet AskFM allows anyone, anywhere, to view images of young children.

Because of websites like this, it is important for parents to take an active interest in the websites their child is using.

Protecting children from cyberbullying

The online world offers a wealth of opportunities to learn, communicate and explore. However, the internet is like the outside world where children can meet different people and may be exposed to risk.  Children actively participate in the digital world; the majority have social media accounts and communicate daily online via smart phones.

Supervise your child on the internetJust as we teach children how to cross the road and how to swim, online activity and social media interaction should be initially supervised.

Where possible, try to keep any computer or handheld devices in a room used by all the family and monitor how much time your child spends on the computer and encourage them to openly talk about what they're looking at.

Adults may feel they are behind the technological curve and may not know enough to feel confident protecting their children from online harm. Parents and other family members may wish to familiarise themselves with how ever evolving computer and mobile technology works. Spending time with children looking at how websites function, and exploring how to block unwanted emails and the GPS facility is a good place to start.

It's important to continue to increase this knowledge as children grow older and migrate from PCs to laptops and handheld devices.

When your child is being cyber-bullied

At BullyingUK we encourage parents to talk to their children about how, when and why they use their mobile phone or internet. If they seem distressed after a phone call or time spent on the internet, try and find out the reasons for this. Vulnerable children can become so consumed by negative online comments towards them, it is crucial that a sense of perspective and proportion is injected by a role model to avoid issues spiraling out of control.

Bullying is a real concern to the families of bullied children who often find the situation traumatic and hard to manage. But we find that young people are more likely to seek help and advice from parents who listen and are supportive, rather than those who lecture or fly off the handle. So try not to over-react.

When your child is the bully

Other families, however, may be experiencing the reverse. Whilst the focus is rightly on 'victims', BullyingUK believe that working with the families of bullies is a preventative measure: parents and professionals must engage with children who bully and their parents. Doing so can help prevent hurtful behaviour towards others in the future, can avoid the social and financial cost of exclusion, and prevent the potential negative outcomes that are associated with bullying, such as future criminal behaviour.

Families may want to discuss the topics of pranks or malicious calls, text messages and emails, alongside what you and they can do if this happens. They can report it to you as a parent, or to a teacher if this happens at school or it's happening to a friend they know at school.

If you suspect your child may be engaging in online bullying behaviour, you may want to discuss how they may feel if they were the person being ridiculed or humiliated.

You may also want to explore the reasons that explain why your child is displaying bullying behaviour - which can sometimes be a result of changes within the home - such as the loss of a relative, or if a divorce or separation is taking place.

Tackling cyberbullying as a family

Families with children who bully often feel isolated and unable to ask for help, but yet these are exactly the families we need to work with to tackle this problem. Particular support and interventions must therefore be designed to ensure that these families can access the information and support that can help them to work with their child's school and change their child's behaviour.

Previous families who have worked with Family Lives have found that, with the support of a dedicated parent support worker, they can turn their child's life around to help prevent costly problems in the future.

What the future holds for cyberbullying

If we allow any form of bullying to persist, it can quickly escalate and seem undefeatable.

Often bullies hope their victims will remain silent, because bullies target people they think they can dominate. Confrontation with evidence of their actions may encourage them to reflect on and understand the consequences of their actions.

But fundamentally, bullies have no right to dominate other people's lives so why should we feel under any obligation to remain silent?

Children who bully often do so because of problems at home - their bullying behaviour could be an extreme cry for help - so it is likely that, by reporting incidents, you will actually be helping them to address their underlying dysfunctional problems.

Getting help with cyberbullying

What do I do if my child is the bully?

As part of the charity Family Lives, BullyingUK works to address the problem of bullying and encourage greater parental involvement. BullyingUK works online and within schools to support children, pupils, parents and professionals to identify and prevent bullying, and to improve the emotional well-being of children by encouraging them to achieve their potential.

The more help and information parents and carers have to understand these issues and talk to their kids about risky behaviours, the safer their kids will be.

Free advice is available through the Family Lives 24/7 Helpline on
0808 800 222.

All bullying tips, including if your child is being bullied, is a bully, cyberbullying and bullying, prejudice and difference, can all be found on the Family Lives' BullyingUK website.

More bullying information

For more information, read Our Favourite Ways to Deal with Bullying.

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