Cyberbullying is a serious issue that can have a range of very negative effects on teenagers and adults.

These effects include lower school attendance and performance, increased stress and anxiety, feelings of isolation and fear, poor concentration, depression, decreased self-esteem and confidence, and in extreme cases, suicide.

Cyberbullying can also have physical effects such as headaches, stomach aches and sleeping problems, as well as psychological effects such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts.

I found an article on the website of the NSW Department of Education that explains the effects of cyberbullying on teenagers in more detail. You can read it here:

What does cyberbullying look like?

Cyberbullying comes in many forms but the most common are: receiving intentionally hurtful text messages, emails or direct messages on social media sites. It also consists of people spreading rumors or lies about someone online. It will have people sending images or videos intended to humiliate or embarrass someone, plus people sending threats to others and even classmates. People will set up and use fake online profiles to embarrass or intimidate someone.

How is it different from other forms of bullying?

Bullying is a kind of behavior that is designed to cause INTENTIONAL harm. Cyberbullying can be even more distressing because of its very public nature. It can spread like wildfire and it can’t be retrieved easily. For example…there’s not limit to who can view or take part in cyberbullying. It can be very difficult to remove content shared online and bullies can be anonymous. Content can be accessed through search engines. It’s hard for people to escape the bullying, especially if they use technology in their everyday lives.

Cyberbullying takes many forms but the worst ones are when people send threats. Scammers can remain anonymous.

Chances are your child spends a lot of time online, so it is important to make sure you know what to do if online behavior gets scary. Learn what cyberbullying is, how it impacts young people, and get some tips on how you and your child can deal with it.

Research shows that the most common age for cyberbullying is the transition period between junior high and high school when people are around 11 or 12, but it happens throughout the teenage years so it’s important to be aware.

Only around 1 in 10 young people inform a parent or trusted adult of cyberbullying. Some reasons for this low number include embarrassment, fear of not being believed, fear of having the issue trivialized, or losing access to technology. Taking proactive steps to educate your child about what they can do about cyberbullying can be a good way to ensure that they approach you for support when they need it.

Make sure your child knows it’s not their fault, that they are not alone, and that there are ways to deal with cyberbullying.

How to be proactive about cyberbullying

  • Ensure that your child only has friends and chats with people on social media that they know in real life
  • Ensure that privacy settings are set on all your child’s social media accounts
  • Make sure your child knows not to share or give out passwords
  • Ensure that your child knows how to block, delete or report anyone who is stalking them online.

How to prevent your teen from being cyberbullied

  • Speak to your teenager about sharing photos online, and especially risque ones. Explain that once they are online, they can lose control of who sees them very quickly and that can lead to name-calling and shaming unfortunately.
  • Remind them to ignore messages from people they don’t know. The internet can be a great place to make new friends, but it is still super important to be extra cautious due to fake accounts and trolls.
  • Make sure they know that cyberbullying is wrong and that they shouldn’t do it. If your teenager engages in this sort of behavior online it may open the door for people to think they have an excuse to cyberbully your child.
  • Get them engaged in offline activities. That way if something does happen online, they have things to do that they enjoy.
  • Remember, the less time they spend on their devices, the less likely it is that they will be cyberbullied.

There is no perfect strategy on how to solve cyberbullying, although, if you know your child is being cyberbullied, the first thing to do is to be supportive and empathetic. Make sure that they know it’s not their fault. Cyberbullying is serious and upsetting, so try not to minimize or trivialize the situation in order to make your child ‘feel better’. Avoid the temptation to stop your child from going online at all; this will more likely result in them not telling you if it occurs again.

Ways to offer emotional support to your child include:

  • Speak to your child and really listen to what they have to say. Thank them for opening up to you, and let them know that you want to put an end to the bullying.
  • Never blame your child for experiencing cyberbullying. The way young people interact online may seem excessive to adults, but bullying is never the fault of the person being bullied.
  • Acknowledge their feelings and don’t try to dismiss their experiences, even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you.
  • Reassure them that there are people who can offer support, whether this is you, their teachers or other professionals and services.
  • If your child is distressed about the bullying, encourage them to speak to a mental health professional, or direct them to services that can help. This may be a school counselor, or a service like Kids Helpline.

If you require more information on how to address cyberbullying situations and for general cyberbullying safety tips, read the fact sheet Escalating Cyberbullying.

Being bullied can leave a young person feeling like there’s no one out there who can offer support. If your child is being bullied online, one of the most important things is to reassure them that there are people who can help. Cyberbullying can be a crime. Different states have different laws on cyberbullying.