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A Parent's Guide to Cyberbullying

According to Ofcom’s 2021 ‘Online Nation’ report, a third of 12 - 15 year olds reported having been personally bullied in 2020, including online. In fact, while younger children tend to be at risk of cyberbullying on internet-games, older children and youth are more likely to encounter bullying on messaging sites. 

In such a changing and increasingly-technological world, it can be difficult to stay on top of the issue of cyberbullying. But, in order to combat lasting emotional tolls as a result of cyberbullying, parents and caregivers must first understand how it happens and how to prevent it. 


The meaning of cyberbullying

What differentiates cyberbullying from traditional bullying? While traditional bullying happens in-person, cyberbullying occurs online, typically on social media platforms and messaging apps. Because children access the internet on their personal devices and smartphones, cyberbullying can therefore happen anywhere - this makes cyberbullying extremely dangerous because children may feel they cannot escape it. 

Online bullies have the advantage of content spreading on the internet, and anonymity. Social media, while it is a platform for flourishing, it can also be a platform where humiliation occurs easily. In order to protect your child from cyberbullies, it is important to understand how cyberbullying happens in order to prevent it. 


Cyberbullying tactics

When wondering how we can keep the internet safe for kids, it’s helpful to gather more cyberbullying information and define social media bullying. This involves becoming familiar with the tactics cyberbullies use online, and the forms cyberbullying can take.

Direct messages: Bullies send messages to a child directly with the intention of upsetting or humiliating them. 

Exclusion: Message-based bullying can also involve the exclusion of a child from a group chat among peers. 

Comments: Writing a hurtful sentiment on a child’s social media post, which can be viewed by others. 

In-direct comments: Not mentioning a specific name, but writing a hurtful comment whose subject is deliberately obvious. The bully intends to humiliate. 

Tagging: A bully links or ‘tags’ a child’s profile to direct their followers to a photo or video meant to humiliate them. This can include publishing an image of them without their consent, and tagging them in the image to identify them. These images can be explicit.

Meme tagging: The tagged media can be more than simply images of the child. This can also take the form of a meme - where the image is meant to represent the child in a ‘funny’ or embarrassing way. 

Voting: Bullies could use the ‘poll’ feature on social media platforms, where a child’s peers have the opportunity to vote in a hurtful poll. 

Whenever a child is experiencing excessive pressure online, this could be harassment. When images or details about their life are exposed nonconsensually, this could be very serious. While cyberbullying is sometimes misconstrued as less severe than in-person bullying, cyberbullying could produce lasting emotions and consequences that should not be taken lightly. 


Recognizing cyberbullying

It may be difficult to determine if your child is being bullied online. If they’re being cyberbullied, your child may be feeling a range of emotions, and these emotions could translate into telling signs that your child is being bullied. 

If their behaviour changes...

       

They may be feeling...

Uncharacteristically angry, bullying others

Angry, upset, embarrassed

Sudden difficulty eating and sleeping, withdrawal from the internet

Overwhelmed, confused, unwell

Worsening self-esteem, self-deprivation, self-harm

Powerless, stressed, scared

There is no prescribed way to determine if your child is dealing with cyberbullying, but changes in behaviour are a good indication that something may be occurring behind the scenes. There are serious and long-lasting emotional implications to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, and many more. Observing your child’s behaviour closely is the first defence in catching cyberbullying before it escalates too far.  


What can parents do to protect their child on the internet?

In order to support children who are victims of cyberbullying, it is important to get the facts. Natterhub recommends asking children what happened, so you can be informed when answering their questions about what’s next

  • Ask: What happened? 

The first step to helping a child who has struggled with cyberbullying is to understand their experience. By listening to a child’s account of the events, parents and caregivers can become more informed and able to help solve the situation. Natterhub recommends asking questions - this makes it clear to children that you are open and supportive when hearing about their struggles. For advice on how to approach these conversations and establish yourself as a trusted adult, Natterhub offers helpful resources. 

  • Answer: What’s next? 

Talking about their experiences with a trusted adult could help a child struggling with cyberbullying emotionally. But, if further action is needed, parents and caregivers can refer to Natterhub’s Platform Advice pages to learn about the social media sites their children use, and how to block, unfriend, or report bullies if necessary. 

Above all, it’s important children understand that bullying, whether online or in-person, is never okay. But, cruelty can be combated with kindness. At Natterhub, we believe teaching kindness can put a stop to cyberbullying. Our website features resources on how to use kindness to combat cyberbullying, as well as further advice for what to do if your child is being bullied online. 

 

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Partnered with NSPCC Partnered with British Educational Suppliers Association Partnered with UKCIS Partnered with Twinkl Partnered with Laptops For Kids Partnered with Internet Watch Foundation Partnered with Childnet Partnered with CEOP
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