Dealing with cyberbullying

How to support your child when it comes to cyberbullying

Dealing with cyberbullying can be tricky. Not all children will tell their parents when it happens, and not all children will understand bullying.

Explore below our guide to dealing with cyberbullying to support children’s digital wellbeing.

Get advice on how to help your child deal with cyberbullying should it happen.
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Whether your child is being cyberbullied or is involved in the bullying, it's important to stay calm and offer your support.

Be led by your child on actions to take to address the situation

Encourage them to continue talking and be ready to listen and take action where necessary.

Don't take away their devices unless this is what they want, as it may make them feel isolated

Whether you are reporting to a school, the police or an online platform, find out how these organisations can help you and your child resolve the situation with advice in our hub.

Dealing with cyberbullying is challenging but with the right support a child can recover and continue to build the skills to make smarter choices online.

Here are three things to take remember to support a child on cyberbullying:

• One - Be involved and have regular conversation about their online activity
• Two - Give them the tools to be prepared to deal with things they may face online
• Three - Be aware of where and how to seek help to get the right level of support

4 quick tips to deal with cyberbullying

If it involves a classmate, contact the school

Should I approach the parents of a bully?

If the children involved are at your child’s school, it’s always best to talk to your child’s teacher first

You may feel you can discuss the bullying behaviour with the other child’s parent but always proceed with caution. It’s natural for a parent to defend their child, so make sure you’re calm and ask for their help to resolve the situation rather than accusing their child. Remember they may have another side to the story. Your goal should always be to stop the bullying behaviour.

Talk about it

How do you talk about cyberbullying?

When a child experiences cyberbullying, they might feel scared, embarrassed or anxious. However, it’s important for them to talk about the experience with someone. Some children might not want to talk to you as a parent, so it’s also important to offer them alternatives. This could include be a helpline like Childline or a counsellor at school.

If you do talk to your child, remember to take it slow and give them time to put their thoughts together. Avoid letting your own nerves leave little space for them to talk.

Get more advice to talk about cyberbullying here.

Block and report the cyberbully

Should children block their bullies?

In some situations, it might be best to encourage your child to block or unfriend the person that caused them hurt, particularly if they’re an anonymous user or not known to your child. Your child might be reluctant to do this if they consider the person a ‘friend’ or they know the person from school or the local community. Revisit what it means to be a friend and talk about healthy online relationships.

And, remember that most social media platforms give you options for reporting or flagging content that breaches their user guidelines. Be aware that the thresholds for offensive content varies according to the social network, game or app.

Save evidence

How to collect evidence of cyberbullying

Bullying is repeated behaviour and it can be helpful to keep a record of events in case you need to seek professional help.

For example, you might want to screengrab offensive content/save messages. It might not help your child to keep seeing these though, so offer to keep them somewhere safe and out of sight for them.

10 tips to help you deal with cyberbullying

Download our infographic for top ten tips when it comes to tackling online bullying.


How to deal with cyberbullying

Taking on cyberbullying is often scary for both parent and child, but here are some things you can do.

Talk to your child about cyberbullying

Talking to your child about cyberbullying is the first step in dealing with it.

Start by creating opportunities to talk to your child in a relaxed environment; sometimes it can be less intense if you go for a walk or a drive rather than sitting face-to-face.

  • Stay calm and ask open questions
  • Listen without judging
  • Praise them for talking to you
  • Don’t take away their devices unless this is what they want. It’s likely to make them angry and increase feelings of sadness and isolation

If your child is the cyberbully, talk to them about it, says Cybertrauma Psychotherapist Catherine Knibbs. “Explain that it must have been very scary, hurtful or confusing for them to want to hurt someone else.” Tell them that you understand and have been in ‘that place’ of feeling frightened, angry or hurt.

“Being able to say sorry can help children come to terms with their behaviour. And I’m sure most of them really are sorry. By speaking and connecting with our children in this way, we can help change the negative behaviours that so often accompany cyberbullying.”

Steps children can take

If your child sees bullying online, encourage them to take action — even if it’s between people they don’t know.

Don't become the bully

When a child sees bullying online, it’s very easy for them to retaliate. Calling a person names, getting people to gang up on them and making fun of them are often ways someone might try to stop a bully. However, this only spreads bullying behaviour.

Although tempting, steer kids away from retaliation. Retaliating can have unpredictable consequences, make arguments last longer and make it harder to see who’s in the wrong.

Instead, encourage your child to block and report, and to get support from a trusted adult.

Help them practise this skill with “Playing With Hate,” an interactive story from Digital Matters.

Stop arguments before they start

The digital space makes it easy for people to get into arguments. Because we can’t see others’ reactions, we sometimes say things we don’t mean, and so do children.

If they find themselves in a heated situation, encourage them to choose positivity. Instead of posting a comment in response to a troll, report it to the platform. Instead of responding to rude comments, leave the chat or group. Or, they can ask you for support if they’re not sure what to do.

However, if something starts to make them feel angry, children should step away to take a break and get support.

Be honest about your feelings

If your child sees something that hurts their feelings, they might feel like they need to laugh it off. Often, children don’t want people to make fun of them, so they hide how they feel.

Empower children to tell people when they’re hurt. Some children might not understand the impact of their words without another person telling them. This is particularly true for neurodivergent children.

If your child does not know the perpetrator who is posting content about them, you can both report it directly to the platform.

Headteacher Vic Goddard on dealing with cyberbullying in a large school environment

Involve your child’s school

If the person or people cyberbullying your child are from school, it is a good idea to contact your child’s teachers.

It’s natural for your child to worry about what the outcome of this might be, so reassure them. Even though it might feel scary, it’s the only way for things to start getting better.

How the school responds will vary depending on their anti-bullying policy. All schools should have a policy and may have mentors or pastoral managers who can help.

Report online bullying to the police

There is not a UK law specifically against cyberbullying. However, bullying behaviours that happen online are criminal offences under a range of different laws. Such laws include the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Cyberbullying that is sexually abusive or that targets your child’s ethnicity, gender, disability or sexuality should be reported to police. Additionally, report threats of harm towards your child or behaviour that encourages your child to harm themselves.

These are some forms of bullying (online or offline) that are illegal:

  • violence or assault;
  • theft;
  • harassment and intimidation over a period of time. This includes calling someone names or threatening them, making abusive phone calls and sending abusive emails or text messages. However, one incident is not normally enough to get a conviction;
  • hate crime.

The response you receive from police will depend on the nature and severity of the incident, whether it’s likely that a crime has been committed and whether your child is at risk of harm.

For further support, contact the Children’s Services department in your local authority.

Get support with your child's safety

Receive personalised resources and advice for your family that keep you up-to-date as your children grow.


Seek out counselling for cyberbullying support

The experience of bullying can place a huge strain on a child. In fact, research shows links to depression, anxiety and self- harm for those experiencing any form of bullying.

As a parent, you should always take it seriously and if you have any worries about your child’s mental or physical health, see your GP. If you need help talking to them about mental health, the Mental Health Foundation and Mind have some advice.

Talk to your GP about available support. Many local counselling services offer a sliding scale of cost depending on your family income. It may even be free. This can be quicker than accessing support through your GP.

For information on counselling services in your area, visit the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy and make sure your child knows about Childline and other services available via phone, email or online chat.

Tolga Yildiz from Childline explains how they can help children with confidential advice
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