How to respond to bullying online

What is bullying online (also called cyberbullying), and how do I know my child is being bullied?

What is bullying online?

Bullying online (sometimes called cyberbullying) is using technology to deliberately and repeatedly bully someone else. It can happen to anyone, anytime, and can leave you feeling unsafe and alone. Bullying online can include:

  • abusive texts and emails

  • posting unkind messages or images

  • imitating others online

  • excluding others online

  • inappropriate image tagging.

Online bullying is serious. The person who is being bullied may not feel they are able to escape it, even at home.

How do I know my child is being bullied online?

Your child may not tell you if they are experiencing bullying behaviour online because of a fear it might make things worse for them or they may lose access to their devices and the internet.

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  • changes in personality, such as becoming more withdrawn, anxious, sad or angry

  • acting more lonely or distressed

  • unexpected changes in friendship groups

  • a decline in their school work

  • changes in their sleep patterns

  • avoidance of school or clubs

  • a decline in their physical health

  • becoming secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use.

How you can help

The eSafety Commissioner recommends ways you can support your child.

  1. Seek immediate help where there is a risk of harm through counselling and support services or call triple zero (000) where there is risk to physical safety or self harm.

  2. Stay calm, listen carefully and ensure your child knows they are being heard.

  3. Try to resist immediately taking away their device. Removing your child’s phone or computer could be unhelpful and make the situation worse.

  4. Before you or your child block someone or delete posts or other bullying material, take screenshots and collect evidence including dates and times.

  5. 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.

  6. Use the eSafety Guide to report abusive content

  7. Consider speaking to your child’s school.

  8. Try to keep your child engaged and stay aware. Check in with your child about how they are feeling.

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