What is cyberbullying?

Bullying is behaviour that hurts someone else. It happens in lots of different ways, including both physical and emotional behaviours. Cyberbullying (or online bullying) is when someone uses the internet to deliberately upset someone else. According to UKSIC, 12% of children in the UK experience cyberbullying.

what is cyberbullying

It can happen anywhere (at home, at school or online), and any child can experience it, especially if they’re seen to be different in some way. This might be because of their disability, race or ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. But it also happens if they’re shy, have low self-esteem or have different family circumstances than others. Unlike bullying offline, cyberbullying follows a child everywhere they have access to the internet. It can happen anywhere at any time, so it’s hard for children to escape it.

The most common ways cyberbullying happens include:

  • Social media.
  • Text messages and messaging apps (such as Whatsapp).
  • Emails.
  • Direct messaging and chat rooms.
  • Online gaming communities.
  • Online forums and message boards.

The different types of cyberbullying.

Bullying happens in a number of ways. The child might not know the person who’s bullying them, or it could be a friend or family member. Some bullying happens directly (such as sending messages over texts, messaging apps or social media that are intentionally abusive or upsetting). But it can also be indirect, where someone is excluded from a group or negative comments are made about them to others.

However there are more public forms of bullying too. These include commenting on social media posts, tagging someone in upsetting content or posting an image of the person online without their consent.

There’s a fine line between “banter” and bullying. The people who are doing the bullying might not realise the impact their behaviour is having on the recipient. Therefore it’s important to remember that if someone is being upset, harassed, intimidated, pressurised or humiliated then they’re being bullied, regardless of the intentions or how it’s happening.

The impacts of cyberbullying.

The effects of bullying can vary. Some children may be able to brush it off or ignore it. But for others, it leads to mental health problems (like depression or anxiety), self-harm and even suicide. The effects of bullying can last into adulthood.

Children might have problems in school or not do as well, or have fewer friendships where they have a harder time trusting or being accepted by others. And they can often feel scared, embarrassed and confused about what’s happening to them.

Together with parents, teachers are often one of the first to notice changes in a child’s behaviour resulting from bullying. Look out for:

  • Changes in mood, behaviour or emotion.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Self-harm.
  • Withdrawing from activities they previously enjoyed (such as gaming online).
  • Problems sleeping or eating.
  • Changes in relationships with others.

Supporting young people.

Here are some top tips for supporting a child who’s experiencing bullying.

Saving evidence. Save evidence of cyberbullying by taking screenshots of what’s happening online, and saving any messages that have been sent.
Ignoring the bullies. Most of the time, bullies are looking for a reaction. Don’t reply, and tell a trusted adult what’s going on instead.
Reporting. Most online channels and services have reporting functions for content and behaviours that go against their community guidelines. Reporting a person, profile, content or comment flags it for review.
Speaking to the school. If your child has spoken to you about experiencing cyberbullying, then speak to someone at their school. Schools can offer support and guidance.

They can also speak to Childline if they’re being bullied or feeling worried and need support,

Guidance for schools.

Preventing cyberbullying isn’t easy! And because it’s online it’s even harder to monitor or control. However, there’s lots you can do in school to raise awareness and treat it as another form of bullying under your school’s bullying policies. Training all school staff in safeguarding and anti-bullying strategies means that if a bullying incident arises, everyone is able to deal with it appropriately.

But what about for students? Well the first thing is to make sure your students understand that bullying in any form is unacceptable! This includes any behaviours online outside of school too. Your school should promote a positive environment (both off and online) as well as educating students about how to report cyberbullying.

Finally, encourage the positive use of technology! The internet is a valuable tool that has huge benefits for children. We’ve put together some other blogs covering social media and online safety and screen time and digital wellbeing which covers this in more detail.

There are lots of resources to help schools tackle cyberbullying. Check out Childnet, UKSIC, and NSPCC for more information!

How can we help your school?

Although we can’t stop cyberbullying from happening, safeguarding and online safety is our top priority! Plus our remote device monitoring means your students are safe while they surf the web, even if they’re using their own devices or are offsite!

Get in touch with us to see how we can help your school keep your students safe online.

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