Understanding cyber bullying

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How to identify and help protect your child against cyber bullying - bullying that uses technology like mobile phones or the internet.

What is cyber bullying?

Cyber bullying is the use of electronic media - especially mobile phones and the internet - to intimidate, threaten or upset someone.

Cyber bullying can include:

  • texting scary or rude messages by mobile phone
  • sending unpleasant photographs by mobile phone
  • using online message boards, chat rooms or social networking sites to post cruel messages
  • deleting the victim's name from or ignoring their messages on social networking sites

This short video demonstrates what cyber bullying is, and how you can deal with it.

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Is my child likely to be a victim of cyber bullying?

Research suggests that cyber bullying is common among teenagers - at least one in five has been a victim of it. The practice is becoming more widespread.

A major difference between cyber bullying and other types of bullying is that the cyber bully can follow your child into the house, even into his or her bedroom. Another disturbing aspect of cyber bullying is that the victim often feels there’s nowhere to hide.

Siannii is a real life victim of cyber bullying:

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What should I do if my child is being cyber bullied?

If you suspect your child is being cyber bullied, don't ignore it. Consider the following approaches:

  • Make sure your child is aware of cyber bullying.
  • Be aware of your child's internet activity.
  • Try to understand the technology and communication networks your child uses.
  • Ask your child to show you any nasty messages he or she receives.
  • Tell your child never to respond to an abusive text message - what the cyber bully most wants is a reply.
  • Talk to staff at your child's school if other pupils at the school are involved.

Schools are very aware of cyber bullying and it's likely to be included in their anti-bullying policy.

Could my child be a cyber bully?

No one wants to think of their child bullying other children. But cyber bullying is different from other forms of bullying - tactics can often be hidden and more subtle - so it's sometimes difficult to detect.

Cyber bullies don't need to be bigger or more aggressive or even in the same place as the child they’re bullying. But like all bullies, they often rely on the support of bystanders - other children who observe what they’re doing and don't challenge them.

Ask your child if they've ever done anything online to hurt or upset anyone. It’s important to emphasise to your child that being cruel to other children and taking part in an activity that could hurt them is wrong.

Cyber bullying also gives children the opportunity to bully adults. Teachers are sometimes the victims of internet messaging that undermines or ridicules them. Make sure your child is aware that these activities are unacceptable and that schools will deal harshly with the pupils involved.

Further information on cyber bullying is available on the following websites:

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