With the rise of mobile phones and hand-held devices, social media has become part of everyone’s life and the use of social media has seen the growth of online bullying. Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Tik Tok allow people to share photos and video instantly around the world. We communicate with our friends and family through social media and it has become a vital part of business and socialising. 

Unfortunately, these advancements in technology have also seen advancements in cyberbullying. We have seen an increase in bullying, harassment or victimisation online. Social media gives those who bully a safe environment to say what they want and target whom they please. Forms of cyberbullying via social media can include; 

  • Spreading malicious and abusive rumours;
  • Harassing you repeatedly;
  • Intimidation and blackmail;
  • Stalking you on-line;
  • Posting embarrassing or humiliating images;
  • Posting your private details;
  • Trolling.

Signs to watch for

  • being upset after using the internet or their mobile phone;
  • changes in personality, such as becoming more withdrawn, anxious, sad or angry; 
  • appearing more lonely or distressed; 
  • unexpected changes in friendship groups; 
  • avoidance of school or clubs; 
  • a decline in their physical health or sleep pattern; 
  • becoming secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use.

What to do if your child is being cyberbullied

The eSafety Commissioner website provides very helpful guides on online safety and cuberbullying. They advise the following steps if you find you child is being bullying online. 

Try to resist immediately taking away their device

Removing your child’s phone or computer could be really unhelpful. Cutting off their online access does not teach them about online safety or help build resilience. It could alienate them from their peers, and it also removes an essential tool for them to communicate and connect with friends.

Stay calm and open — don’t panic

You want your child to feel confident that you’re not immediately going to get upset, angry or anxious if they tell you about the situation. You want them to know they can talk to you and feel heard. The best way to do this is make sure you have an open dialogue from the beginning. Talk to them without being judgemental or angry, and make them feel like they can come to you with anything, without fear of being punished.

Listen, think, pause

Gauge the scale of the problem. Does it exist in a peer group or is it more widespread? Is it a few remarks here and there? Or is it more serious? Empathise with your child and let them know that you understand how they feel. How badly is it affecting your child personally? If the bullying itself is not very intense, but your child seems quite seriously affected, this could be a symptom of something larger. In this case you may need to seek help, from a school counsellor, a helpline, or an external professional.

Try not to respond immediately. Take some time to consider the best course of action. Reassure your child you are working on it and will come together again very soon to talk through some options. Let them know you are there if they feel like they need to talk in the meantime.

Act to protect your child if necessary

If your child is being threatened, or if they indicate a wish to harm themselves, you should get professional help. Call Triple Zero (000) immediately, if their physical safety is at risk. Contact a counselling and support service like Kids Helpline.

Empower your child

Wherever possible, try to build your child’s confidence and help them make wise decisions for themselves, rather than telling
them what to do. If you feel they may be struggling to open up to you, connect them with other trusted adults or with professional support.

Collect evidence

Before you or your child block someone or delete posts or other bullying material, take screenshots and collect evidence including dates and times. The evidence may be useful if the bullying behaviour continues and you need a record of how long it has been going on. You may also need evidence if you want to report it.

However, if the bullying material involves sexualised images, be aware that possessing or sharing such images of people under 18 may be a crime, even if you have just taken a screenshot for evidence purposes. For information about relevant laws in Australia, visit Youth Law Australia

Manage contact with others

Advise your child not to retaliate or respond to bullying messages, as sometimes people say hurtful things just to get a response and it could make things worse. If they have already responded, encourage them not to respond further. Help your child to block or unfriend the person sending the messages to limit contact with them. Help your child change their privacy settings to restrict who can see their posts and profile page. 

Report

Many social media services, games, apps and websites make it easy to report content posted by other people. You can make a cyberbullying report to eSafety on your child’s behalf if they are under 18 years of age. 

Stay aware

Check in with your child from time-to-time about how they are feeling. Keep an eye on their eating and sleeping habits, their ability to concentrate and make decisions and their overall mood. If you notice any changes that concern you, get help for your child through a counselling or online support service.

Report Cyber Abuse to esafety