What is cyber bullying?
When a bully uses the internet as a tool to abuse someone, this is known as cyber bullying or online bullying.
As a parent, guardian or carer it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand internet technology, you can still help your child if they are being bullied online.
There are lots of places where you can find information online about cyber bullying including the NSPCC website.
Blame the Bully, not the technology
Bullies cause cyber bullying and the internet and technology are tools that they use to help make that happen. Taking away your child’s access to the internet won’t necessarily solve the problem. That said, your child may wish to stop using social networks or other things for a while and all of that will need to be talked about and agreed by you and your child together.
Consider if and how you will respond to the bully
Bullies want a reaction of any kind so we suggest to children and young people that they don’t respond at all to online bullies but to report them and block them instead, and to talk to someone they can trust about it. You may want to respond to the bully. If that’s the case, do this when you have had time to consider what your want to say calmly and carefully.
You may want to explain to the bully that you’re now aware of what’s been going on, have saved the evidence of the bullying and have/or are going to report them to the website or social network they have been using, their school (if they are a child and you know them), their parents (if you know them) or the police if you think what’s happening is serious enough.
Save the evidence
Save the bullying if possible for evidence. This could include saving text messages or keeping a record of what’s been happening online. If the bullying is happening online but you can’t save it due to the system that’s been used you can use something called ‘print screen’ or ‘screen capture’ to copy information into a document and save that separately as evidence. If you’re not sure how to do this you can search for instructions online.
Use Reporting Facilities
Many social networks allow users to ‘report abuse’ and ‘block’ users. As a parent, guardian or carer you may want to encourage your child to find out (if they don’t already know) how they can report someone online so that they feel confident to do it if they need to. It’s also important for children to understand the need to report people for cyber bullying before they ‘block them’ so that action can be taken.
Get your school involved
If you think your child is being bullied online by someone from their school contact the school. Individual schools will have their own policies on bullying / cyber bullying. Whatever the policy if your child is being bullied by someone from their school or someone they don’t know, they may need support of some kind during school hours.
If the bully is from your child’s school that may need some support too so by making a report, you can help. Although each case is different, generally schools should make it very clear what their approach is to bullying (including online bullying).
Any form of bullying can make a child feel alone. Cyber bullying can happen day and night, on school days and weekends. This can be not only upsetting but really tiring. Keep talking with your child to reassure them and let them know that they are not to blame.
When to contact the police
If you think that the level of bullying is serious and that your child is at risk of harm telephone Devon and Cornwall Police on 101 and ask to speak with your local Police Community Support Officer or Youth Intervention Officer. In an emergency always telephone 999.
Like the offline environment there are laws in the UK that apply online. Although each case is different, cyber bullies shouldn’t be surprised to receive a visit from the police if what they have been doing has resulted in a criminal offence. You can find out more about the law at GOV.UK.