Cyberbullying is a serious topic that can seem overwhelming to both teenagers and their parents. It can be difficult to know when to seek help, and who to get help from. We take a step-by-step look at when and how to escalate a cyberbullying problem.
If your child is the subject of hurtful comments or images posted online, the first steps they can take are:
- don’t respond to bullying behaviour
- keep evidence of bullying behaviour, via print outs or screen shots
- delete the offensive posts or messages once they’ve been documented
- untag or flag any photos for removal that are distressing
- unfriend or block the person that is posting hurtful comments
- set privacy settings and change any passwords that have been shared with others
What parents can do to help?
The first thing to do if your child tells you that they’re being cyberbullied is to listen and be supportive. Cyberbullying is a serious issue that should not be trivialised.
- Talk to your child about what has been happening and try to get a clear picture about what has been happening and for how long it’s been going on.
- Teach them how important it is to stay calm when dealing with bullying. Don’t respond to bullying with aggression. Encourage them to call out the bullying behaviour in a calm manner. For example, ‘Please stop sending these messages – this is bullying’.
- Go through the initial steps list above to try to put a stop to the abuse.
If the cyberbullying continues or intensifies, it’s time to enlist some external help.
If your child knows who is bullying them from school, it’s important to involve their school in the issue. Most schools have a bullying policy, often found on the school’s website, that you can read to get a sense of how they will respond to the issue.
When contacting the school:
- Make sure to let your child know that you will be contacting the school for help.
- Have as much information as you can about the bullying - how long it’s been happening and what’s been happening.
- Make an appointment to see your child’s teacher or an administrator at the school.
- Make a plan with the school on how to stop the bullying.
- Keep in regular contact with the school after the initial meeting to monitor the situation.
- If you’re unhappy with the school’s response, try to meet again with the school, and failing that, contact the local education authority.
Social media and mobile phone providers
Social media and mobile phone providers can be a resource to call on in the case of cyberbullying. A handy list of how to report abuse across a wide variety of social media platforms can be found below. Mobile phone providers can assist with tracking in the case of abusive texts or calls.
The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner is an excellent information resource for both parents and young people when dealing with cyberbullying. They can also help with cyberbullying by getting offensive material removed from sites on your behalf. This is done by completing a complaint form on their website.
A complaint can be made to the eSafety Commissioner by any young person aged less than 18 years, and any adult who is a parent or guardian to a young person who is being cyberbullied. If possible, it’s best for young people under 15 years old to get an adult help to fill out the complaint form.
Complaints can be made via an online form on the eSafety Commissioner website.
Before making a complaint:
- Contact the social media provider and report the abuse, keep proof that you have done this and keep a note of the date that the report was filed.
- If the cyberbullying is occurring via text or email, take screenshots or keep the messages as evidence.
- Gather as much evidence as you can - screenshots, photos, videos and links will all help to make your case.
Making a complaint to the eSafety Commissioner is the best way to go if you have reported abuse to your social media provider and the offensive material hasn’t been removed within 48 hours.
The police should be contacted in the case where the cyberbullying takes the form of intimidation and direct threats. They can help to track down the perpetrator in the case that the cyberbullying is anonymous.
Peer and professional support
Dealing with cyberbullying is an incredibly difficult thing to cope with for both children and parents. Alongside all of the strategies above, make time to reach out for support from family and friends, both for you and your child. Don't be afraid to access professional support like a counsellor or youth worker, particularly if the cyberbullying is ongoing or is having a impact on your child's wellbeing. You can also encourage your teen to participate in safe online peer-support through the ReachOut Forums for youth. It is a reputable, evidence based and professionally moderated online information and support service.