a girl on her phone in the foreground with two people in the background blurred

This might help if you:

  • think your teen is cyberbullying others
  • are unsure how to intervene if your teen is cyberbullying
  • think your teen doesn't realise they are hurting others

Is your teenager cyberbullying?

If you’re worried that your teen might be cyberbullying, you’re not alone. Research shows 10-20% of teens will engage in cyberbullying at some point. Teens live online, and sometimes they’ll post something because they think it’s 'funny' and not even realise they’re hurting someone. The important thing is to recognise what’s happening and help your teen to change their behaviour as soon as possible.

3 step action plan

1. Be clear about what you want your teen do to
Before talking to your teen, strategise! You may think of other helpful things you'd like to get out of the conversation, and here are three points to get you off to a good start:

  • understand the impacts of their bullying
  • change their behaviour
  • help the person they've bullied to feel better.

2. Talk to your teen calmly
Discovering that your teen is posting hurtful or offensive material about others can be very upsetting. You may feel angry, guilty or embarrassed, but try to remain calm when you talk to them. Also it’s important you get the whole story; tell them what you know and ask them to tell you what’s happened from their point of view. You’ll get more out of the conversation if you:

  • keep your emotions in check and avoid judgement or blame
  • focus on your teen's behaviour, it's their actions not them as a person that you're talking about
  • stick to what they need to do to make amends.

3. Consider the best way to resolve the situation
What you decide will depend on the age of your teen, the extent of the bullying and the impact on the other person.

  • Separate out the behaviour from the person. By reassuring your teenager that just because they have behaved in this way it doesn’t mean they are a bad person can make it easier to work with them to change. 
  • Ask your teen to stand in the other person's shoes and imagine how they would feel if the same thing had happened to them. This can open their eyes to how hurt that person might be feeling, and help your teen understand why they need to change their behaviour.
  • Find out what they are trying to achieve with their behaviour and explore how else they may get it – what’s going on behind the behaviour? This can shine a light on anything serious that may be happening for them as well. For example, if they are expressing anger because of something other people have done, brainstorm how they can do it in a more constructive and helpful way.
  • It won’t be possible in all circumstances, but getting your teen to admit their mistake, take down the offensive material and apologise to the person or people they have hurt can go a long way to healing the pain they have caused. Decide on this together, and agree on the appropriate actions to take.
  • Be aware that you may need to involve the school, and decide to get professional support to help your teen change their behaviour.

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