Cyberbullying Advice For Parents: 7 Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied Online

Do you know what to look for?

For many parents the world of cyberbullying is unchartered territory - something they’ve never dealt with firsthand and may find difficult to address with their child.

To mark Stand Up To Bullying Day on Wednesday 21 June, The Diana Award, a charity set up in the memory of Diana, is calling for “cyber lessons” in digital resilience to be introduced in schools.

But in the meantime, an increasing number of parents are struggling to find out whether their child is being cyber bullied - as research from a ChannelMum survey found that 17% of school children are now bullied online.

So what can parents do?

Cathy Ranson, Editor of ChannelMum said: “Cyberbullying can be one of the toughest types of bullying to cope with. Smartphones and other devices mean there is no escape and it can happen around the clock.

“And the internet never forgets so the words and images are preserved online for others to see - meaning bullying can spread.”

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The NSPCC told HuffPost UK, that there is “no one sign” that indicates a child is being bullied online, but there are lots of things that parents can be on the look out for, if their children are not giving anything away.

1. They are being secretive with their devices.

Although no child wants their parents looking at their messages (you probably wouldn’t want them reading yours either), and they are entitled to privacy, if your child becomes more protective of their device suddenly, then this is a red flag.

Be aware this behaviour won’t necessarily manifest as hiding the device (fewer than 3% of kids do this, according to Channel Mum), but if your child is generally being secretive about what they are doing online, appearing anxious or upset after using their mobile phone, or stopping abruptly and putting the device down, you might want to check in.

2. They are constantly checking their device.

We all know that our children can be addicted to their devices, but if they seem unwilling to part from it (won’t leave it alone at the dinner table or put in your bag when you are out), then you might want to ask if everything is okay.

Lauren Seager-Smith, CEO of anti-bullying charity Kidscape, said: “Checking their device isn’t unusual, but if your child seems unusually anxious and obsessive it can be a sign they’re being targeted.”

3. They are reluctant to switch off at night.

Being physically joined to their device will not just be a problem during the daytime, but in the evenings when their peers (and the potentially bully) are most likely to be online, so their anxiety might be heightened later at night, or around bedtime.

Linda James, CEO of Bullies Out, says children might also feel more sadness and isolation if you threaten to take their device off them before bed.

4. They are having extreme moods.

It might seem logical that all children being bullied would have their confidence knocked, according to ChannelMum research, only 25% of children who were being bullied had a loss of self esteem.

So instead be on the look out for extreme moods that might indicate there is something more going on, Seager-Smith said: “They all have their ups and downs, but look out for extremes that make you think ‘that’s not like them’.”

5. They don’t want to go to school.

Obviously lots of children complain about going to school and can go through phases of being difficult. But a prolonged refusal to go to school (especially if it is uncharacteristic) is a sign that everything isn’t right. In fact, 40% of bullying victims expressed a desire to stop going to school.

“It’s common for online bullying to be perpetrated by school peers or a continuation of what’s going on at school. If they don’t want to go to school it is an alarm bell,” said Seager-Smith.

6. They have lots of unexplained illness.

Having a child that frequently complains of unexplained ailments, especially those that tie in with having to go to school or on social occasions, is another sign for parents to watch out for. Although bear in mind your child is probably not ‘faking it’, they may actually be making themselves feel sick with anxiety and nerves.

Seager-Smith said: “Again this is common in children experiencing any form of bullying. Expect to see tummy upsets and headaches. These can be symptoms of stress or tactics for avoiding school and other social gatherings.”

7. They are suffering with anxiety or becoming withdrawn.

Although they may not suffer a loss of self esteem, your child could become withdrawn (20% of cyberbullying victims do), suffer anxiety (23%), have panic attacks (6%) or become depressed (11%).

Seager-Smith said: “You might feel like your child has withdrawn into themselves and is becoming secretive. Encourage them to talk to someone they trust - even if it’s not you.”

If you’re worried that your child is being bullied online, the NSPCC says that you should tell them you want to help and will do all you can to stop it.

Depending on the severity of the bullying it may be necessary for their school or the police to become involved.

Keep all emails, nasty messages and screen shots of any social media posts as evidence.

Children can call Childline for free on 0800 1111 for any advice 24/7.