What to do if your child is being cyberbullied


In today’s digital age Australian’s are on the internet more than ever. Children aged 15 to 17 are the highest users of devices with approximately 99% being online.

Cyberbullying is a serious issue among young people as 44% of young Australian’s reporting a negative online experience within the last 6 months. Bullying can make it difficult for your child to concentrate at school.

There are steps parents can take if their child is being cyberbullied, the main one being prevention.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is when someone targets your child online using threatening, intimidating or mean-spirited conduct. Cyberbullies may be using devices such as computers, phones, gaming consoles or tablets.

Cyberbullying can look like:
  • Sending messages of an intimidating, or harassing nature
  • Sending, posting or sharing harmful negative content that may be false
  • Sending, posting or sharing content aimed to embarrass the person

Cyberbullying may include sharing personal or private information.

Signs your child is being cyberbullied

Dr Karen Cohen, Principal Psychologist at Kids & Co, outlines some physical indications your child is being cyberbullied:

  • Your child suddenly stops using their device where they would usually comfortably use it

For example, they may stop using their laptop on the kitchen table where mum could see it.

  • Secretive behaviour such as shutting off a screen as you walk past
  • Jumpy and nervous when they receive a text or notification
  • Changed sleeping pattern

Your child may have trouble sleeping or be sleeping more.

Dr Cohen suggests your child may verbally allude to bullying without telling.

“Comments like, ‘there’s been lots of drama lately. I have no friends. No one likes me.’”

How to prevent your child from being cyberbullied

Katerina Dominguez, Child Mental Health Coach at Wings Wellness explains the key difference between bullying and cyberbullying is that there are more things parents can implement to avoid cyberbullying.

Help manage your child privacy and safety settings

Around 68% of young people actively manage their privacy online.

The top three actions being taken are:

  • Blocking or unfriending people
  • Increasing privacy settings
  • Disabling automatic locations on posts

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This step-by-step parents’ guide to social media gives an insight on how to manage your child on each social media app. You can also read further information about advice schools have regarding social media.

Educate your child about cyberbullying

Educate your child about what cyberbullying is, how to prevent it, and steps to take if it happens to them or a friend.

You want to get them to a position where they’ve got such an understanding, that they hopefully don’t get bullied.

Katerina Dominguez, Child Mental Health Coach, Wings Wellness

Teach your child about appropriate conduct online so they don’t become a cyberbully. This is not only harmful to others, but themselves, leaving a negative digital footprint.

Set up boundaries and guidelines for device use

Educate your child and set up rules for being on social media.

Some online boundaries to discuss with your child include:
  • Only accepting friends and family;
  • Not conversing with strangers;
  • Types of photos they can and can’t post;
  • Language they should be using online; or
  • Private information they should not upload or discuss online.

Dr Cohen suggests setting up expectations around the use of devices as home.

“General stuff may be limiting the hours of use. Decide when we are going to unplug and be present at home. When is ok to use it, maybe not around meal time, homework or before bed…. it’s a very personal decision.”

What to do if your child if is being cyberbullied

If your child reaches the point where they are being cyberbullied, it can affect their wellbeing.

Katerina outlines the first step is to determine the severity of the cyberbullying.

“It could lead to anxiety, depression, and avoidance of any interaction and in some cases suicide. If it is something very extreme I would jump on it and go see a family doctor and then get the appropriate help.”

As a mental health coach, she focuses on building the child’s self-esteem and confidence when bullying has occurred.

“For myself it’s about them understanding what they can and can’t control in the situation and building up their self-esteem to understand that it’s not really about them.”

Tips if your child is being cyberbullied:

  • Don’t ban social media

Kids use social media to connect. Banning the use of social media entirely could leave them on the outskirts of their peer group.

  • Set up boundaries or expectations about the use of devices and online conduct
  • Educate them about what cyberbullying is
  • Teach your child about what to do if themselves or a friend experiences cyberbullying
  • Manage their safety and privacy settings on social media


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