Signs of cyberbullying
If you’re concerned that your child is being cyberbullied, you can watch for changes in your child’s school and social life, technology use, and emotions and behaviour.
You know your child and how they usually behave. This means you’re in a good position to notice any concerning changes in your child.
School and social life
- refuses to go to school
- starts getting lower marks than usual
- doesn’t want to see friends as much as usual
- doesn’t want to take part in their usual sports and extracurricular activities
- avoids group gatherings
- doesn’t leave the house.
- is upset during or after using technology
- spends much longer than usual online or stops using the computer or phone
- stops what they’re doing on the computer or hides their phone when you’re around.
Emotions and behaviour
- is more moody than usual
- shows obvious changes in behaviour
- gets unusually angry at home
- has trouble sleeping
- has no appetite
- becomes withdrawn
- feels sick or complains of frequent headaches or stomach aches.
If you’re worried your child might be the one doing the cyberbullying, you could start by talking with your child about being a responsible digital citizen and treating other people with respect online. Also, some children bully because they’ve been bullied. In this situation, take action to stop your child from bullying others but also look for the signs above.
G.E.T.R.I.D. steps: helping children and teenagers handle cyberbullying
If children and teenagers are being bullied online, it’s important for them to feel they have some power to resolve the problem themselves. These 6 steps are a good way for your child to G.E.T.R.I.D. of cyberbullying.
You might need to help your child work through these steps and report a cyberbullying incident. Your support might make the difference, because some children and teenagers feel too emotionally exhausted to report incidents themselves.
1. G – go block or delete the person doing the cyberbullying
Blocking someone from friend lists helps to stop the person doing the cyberbullying from posting offensive content about your child.
If the cyberbullying is happening through text messages or phone calls, you can ask the service provider to monitor the calls or texts, or block the number. If necessary, the service provider can contact the sender, because mobile phone holders breach their contracts if they use their phones to bully. If necessary, you can change the phone number.
2. E – ensure you keep evidence of bullying
Save evidence of the bullying. The best way to do this is to take screenshots.
3. T – tell someone
If your child shares their feelings about the cyberbullying with you, their other parent, an older sibling, or a relative, teacher, school counsellor or close friend, it’ll help them feel less isolated. The sooner they talk to someone, the better.
4. R – report abuse
You can usually report cyberbullying by clicking on a ‘report abuse’ link on a website or social media app. The website or app will remove the offensive content, but this can take time. If the material isn’t removed in 48 hours, you can report it to the eSafety Commissioner.
If your child has been threatened, they should also report it to the local police. If your child is in immediate danger, they should call 000.
5. I – initiate control
If your child takes control of the cyberbullying situation, they’ll feel safer and break the cycle. Taking control involves reporting the abuse and also not responding to or retaliating against the person doing the cyberbullying. Responding to the person doing the cyberbullying can make things worse because the person might keep fighting back to regain power and control.
Activities like going for a walk, muscle relaxation or breathing exercises might help distract or calm your child if they feel the urge to respond.
6. D – delete the bullying message
After you’ve saved evidence of the cyberbullying, delete the message or post. Don’t forward it, repost it, retweet it or send it to other people in any way because they might forward it too.
You might like to check out our illustrated guide to stopping cyberbullying. It’s a handy reference that you can print out for both yourself and your child to use.
Helping children and teenagers who have been cyberbullied
Your child won’t always be able to solve cyberbullying problems on their own. It’s important to step in if you’re concerned. Your calm and loving support is vital to your child’s wellbeing:
Here are some ways you can offer immediate practical and emotional help and support:
- Just listen to your child to start with. Jumping in too quickly to fix the problem can sometimes make it worse, so be sensitive to your child’s needs.
- Let your child know that you’ll help, but you won’t do anything they don’t want you to do.
- If you need to get your child’s school involved, make sure your child is OK with this and has a say in the process. It might help your child to know that telling a teacher is a good idea if the person doing the cyberbullying is at their school.
- Avoid banning your child from using the internet or their mobile phone. This could make your child less likely to share their online problems with you. It can also isolate your child from supportive friends online.
- Get professional help if your child seems distressed or withdrawn. Your child can contact Kids Helpline – Teens by phoning 1800 551 800, Beyond Blue by phoning 1300 224 636 or eheadspace by phoning 1800 650 890. Your child can also talk to a GP.
Cyberbullying: why it’s hard to spot
Cyberbullying can be tough to spot.
This is because many young people who are being cyberbullied might not realise what’s happening at first.
Also, they sometimes don’t want to tell teachers or parents, perhaps because they feel embarrassed. They might be scared that the cyberbullying will get worse if an adult tries to do something about it, or they might be worried about losing their computer or phone privileges.