How to spot the signs of cyberbullying with Dr Anna Colton

This film was recorded before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clinical psychologist Dr Anna Colton looks at some of the common signs of cyberbullying and what can be done to help.

Changes in online use

Look out for changes in your child’s use of their smartphone, tablet or laptop. An overuse of these devices may indicate they are constantly tracking social media activity, whereas less frequent use could suggest they are worried about what they will find online.

Listen out for problems

Pay close attention to what topics your child is talking about. Any conversations about friendship difficulties or being teased online could be worth exploring further.

These concerns might not even be talked about directly, so listen out for hints or slight changes in behaviour.


Keep the conversation open and don’t be confrontational. Show them that you are not going to judge. This way, your child is more likely to confide in you and open up to talking about bullying.

It’s also worth having a conversation with their teachers. They may have an inkling as to what is wrong at school and even if they haven’t, they will be able to keep an eye out.

Monitoring social media

Monitoring your child’s social media use is really important, but can be difficult to constantly track. For this reason, it’s crucial to educate them about their online habits from an early age.

One of the simplest things you can do is to make sure they follow the age restrictions for signing up to social media sites and applications. If the sites and apps are not age appropriate, they should not be using them – even if they argue that their friends are.

Checking devices

Have an agreement with your child about checking their device usage, whether this is their smartphone, tablet or laptop. This doesn’t have to be every day; you don’t want this to be intrusive, but more a sense-check of what sites they’re visiting and who they’re communicating with.

A balanced approach will maintain trust, and you’ll be keeping them safe whilst respecting their privacy.

Mr Burton’s top 5 tips for mobile phone and online safety
Net Aware - NSPCC
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