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When harassment and intimidation take place online, it’s called cyberbullying. This kind of bullying can be especially hard to deal with, since it can be difficult to control and visible to a large number of people. Chances are your child spends a lot of time online, so it’s important to make sure you know what to do if online behaviour gets nasty. Learn what cyberbullying is, how it impacts young people, and get some tips on how you and your child can deal with it.

This can help if you:

  • want to know what cyberbullying is
  • think your child could be experiencing or involved in cyberbullying in some way
  • want to find out how you can help

What is cyberbullying?

The causes of cyberbullying are ambiguous; what we do know is that cyberbullying is the deliberate, persistent and malicious use of words or pictures in an online environment intended to cause harm to someone’s wellbeing. Research undertaken by Kids Helpline found that the most common age for cyberbullying is the transition period between primary and high school when young people are around 11 or 12, but it happens throughout the teenage years so it’s important to be aware.

What does cyberbullying look like?

Cyberbullying comes in many forms but the most common are:

  • receiving intentionally hurtful text messages, emails or direct messages on social media sites
  • people spreading rumours or lies about someone online
  • people sending images or videos intended to humiliate or embarrass someone
  • people sending threats to someone
  • people setting up and using fake online profiles to embarrass or intimidate someone.

How is it different to other forms of bullying?

Bullying is a kind of behaviour that is designed to cause intentional harm. Cyberbullying can be even more distressing because of its very public and uncontrollable nature. For example:

  • there’s no limit to who can view or take part in cyberbullying
  • it can be very difficult to remove content shared online
  • bullies can be anonymous
  • content can be accessed through search engines

It’s hard for people to escape the bullying, especially if they use technology in their everyday lives. It’s suggested that young people can be more likely to bully someone online than they would in real-life, as they feel less accountable for their actions due to the nature of the online world.

What are the impacts of cyberbullying?

The effects of cyberbullying on teenagers can range from:

  • lower school attendance and performance
  • increased stress and anxiety
  • feelings of isolation and fear
  • poor concentration
  • depression
  • decreased self-esteem and confidence
  • in extreme cases the cyberbullying can lead to suicide.

What to do if your child is being cyberbullied

Being bullied can leave a young person feeling like there’s no one out there who can offer support. If your child is being bullied online, one of the most important things is to reassure them that there are people who can help. Cyberbullying can be a crime. Different states have different laws on cyberbullying. For more information, be sure to check out 

Get some ideas about how you can help your child with cyberbullying.