How To Spot The Signs Of Cyberbullying

Concerned your child is being bullied online? Here’s what you should look out for…

Around one in five children aged 10-15 years in England and Wales (19%) experienced at least one type of online bullying behaviour in the year ending March 2020, equivalent to 764,000 children.*

That’s a shocking and yet sadly unsurprising statistic. The increased use of smartphones and social media means that bullies can follow their victim wherever they go, making it almost impossible to escape from harassment. Cyberbullying can range from posting nasty comments or shaming someone online to pressurising an individual into sending sexual images or urging someone to harm themselves.

Worryingly, it’s quite easy for a child to hide the fact that they’re being bullied online. There are telling signs you can look out for, such as behavioural changes that indicate something isn’t quite right.

  1. Nervous or agitated behaviour when they receive a text or notification.

This could be a sign that your child is receiving abusive, upsetting texts, comments or emails.

  1. Withdrawn from family and friends.

Bullies are experts at isolating their target from close family and friends. If your teen is hiding in their room and becoming increasingly withdrawn from their loved ones, this is a strong indicator that something is wrong.

  1. Abruptly walking away from a laptop or screen mid-use.

Has your teen suddenly slammed a laptop closed and rushed off looking upset? Or thrown their phone down mid-scroll?

  1. Stomach aches and headaches.

Is your teen complaining of unexplainable aches and pains? Anxiety caused by bullying can make a person feel physically sick.

  1. Reluctance to go to school.

Is your teen doing everything they can to try and avoid going to school? They might feign illness, kick off in the mornings or text you through the day to ask if they can come home.

  1. Struggling to fall asleep at night.

Have you noticed changes to your child’s sleeping pattern? They may be finding it difficult to drift off because they’re worrying so much about the bullying.

  1. Loss of interest in hobbies/interests.

Has your teen lost interest in the things that used to bring them joy? This could be because their interest is the subject of the bullying and they want to distance themselves from it to give the bullies less ‘fodder’. Or, if they’re reluctant to go back to a club or sport team they previously enjoyed this could be because the bully will also be there.

  1. Unexplained weight gain or loss and changes to appetite.

Worry and anxiety can affect your child’s appetite. Keep a close eye out for any changes to your teen’s eating.

  1. Upset or frustrated after using social media or gaming online.

Does your teen seem sad, frustrated or even angry after logging onto Insta or coming off COD?

  1. Voicing comments about suicide and suicidal thoughts.

Always take this seriously and encourage them to talk about how they’re feeling. If you think your child is in danger or have a ‘gut feeling’ that something is very wrong, get help immediately. Take your child to A&E if necessary, contact your local CAMHS crisis team or call Childline on 0800 11 11.  

Get more help on supporting your teenager with suicidal thoughts here.

How To Help

It can be difficult to get a child to open up about bullying. They may be feeling scared, ashamed or embarrassed to talk honestly about what’s been going on. They may even feel as if they might get into trouble or will face negative consequences by speaking out. Try to talk to your child in a quiet, familiar place where they feel safe. Offer constant reassurance that you are there to support them and reinforce that you will do whatever you can to help.

If they still won’t open up, try not to take it personally. Suggest that they talk to a different family member about their worries or a trusted teacher in a bid to get them to speak out. 

If you discover your child is the victim of cyberbullying, take screenshots of any abuse or harassment and block the perpetrator. Tell your child not to engage with any vicious or unkind messages or posts – simply block, report and ignore. The National Bullying Helpline has a helpful guide on how to block individuals and report bullying across multiple social media platforms here.

If your child has been the victim of particularly nasty cyberbullying, you may need to raise the issue with the police. You may also need to set up a meeting with the school if the perpetrator is a fellow student. Get more advice on supporting a bullied child here.

*Source: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/onlinebullyinginenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2020


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