Cyberbullying is repeated behavior aimed at upsetting someone using digital platforms and often happens alongside bullying in person. There can be a fine line between joking and being hurtful, especially online, but if a child feels upset, or thinks others are laughing at them instead of with them, the joke’s gone too far.
When children say hurtful things to each other it’s rarely malicious. Instead, bullying often occurs when the bully wants to fit in, has low self-esteem or is feeling hurt themselves. That doesn’t mean that it’s okay, but it can be helpful to explain to your child why some children may bully others.
Cyberbullying is one of the top three concerns for parents of children aged 10 to 12, and like all forms of bullying, it negatively affects children’s wellbeing. Cyberbullying can be particularly hard to escape. If your child has a phone, it can feel like they’re carrying a bully around in their pocket everywhere they go.
The most important thing is to encourage them to talk about what they’re experiencing. Whether that’s with you, a teacher or another trusted grown-up. Sometimes it can be enough to simply ask the bully to stop, and if it works, that’s great! But asking a bully to stop doesn’t always work, so let your child know they should tell you or a trusted grown-up if they see bullying behavior.
Many social platforms also have anti-bullying tools to restrict who can view and comment on posts, or connect as a friend, as well as simple steps to block, mute or report cyberbullying. Explain to your child that reporting is important as it helps show the bully that their behavior is unacceptable and can, in turn, bring an end to the bullying. If you feel the situation is extreme and that your child is in danger, contact the police or emergency services.
It can be helpful to talk to your child about how their behavior online could affect others. Actions such as not joining in when the joke has gone too far, or sending a heart emoji to people they care about, can make a big difference. Encourage them to be kind and respectful and explain how this can help create a happy, positive online environment.
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