How to protect your child from cyberbullying

By Irene Cantizano,
updated on Sep 8, 2023

Girl sitting at laptop

Worried about your child online? Children’s bullying prevention charity, Kidscape, shares tips for protecting your child from online bullying and building their self-esteem.

With the internet and online devices being the norm in our society, you might assume that online bullying is rare, at least for those of us who aren’t in the media spotlight. But actually, online bullying (cyberbullying), is more common than we might like to think, as revealed in the 2022 study from Ofcom, which found that older children are more likely to be bullied on a screen than in person. This means that, in today's digital age, it's crucial for parents and carers to be vigilant about keeping their children safe online.

Here are some tips on how to protect your child from cyberbullying.

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is any bullying behaviour using digital technologies. Cyberbullying can have serious and lasting effects on a child's mental and emotional well-being. It typically includes:

  • Intentionally causing someone or a group of people harm by sharing or posting unkind or offensive comments.
  • Sharing private information to shame or ridicule.
  • Impersonating others.
  • Promoting rumours or fake news about others.
For young people, the perpetrators are usually people they know (e.g. from school or the community) and quite often, it is a continuation of bullying behaviour that is happening during the school day.

Online risks like cyberbullying can seem very scary, but there are plenty of practical things you can do to keep your child safe online.

How does social media affect self-worth?

According to a recent survey, 97% of children as young as 12 are now on social media. Social media can be a good way for young people to connect with friends, be creative, learn, and have fun. However, two-thirds of teenagers worry about how much time they spend on these platforms – with the average daily time spent on apps being 3.65 hours. Even more alarmingly, 70% of young people say that social media makes them feel stressed, anxious and depressed.

As parents and carers, we must support our children in building healthy relationships with social media and ensure they know their self-worth does not depend on their online presence.

11 ways to protect your child from cyberbullying and build their self-worth

1. Open communication is key

Establish an open and non-judgmental line of communication with your child. Let them know they can come to you with any concerns about their online experiences, including bullying. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative. Let them know you are on their team, and you will help them.

2. Set clear guidelines

Establish clear guidelines for your child's online activities. Make sure they understand the importance of privacy settings and the potential consequences of sharing personal information.

You also might want to discuss appropriate screen time, websites, social media platforms, and apps. It can help to involve your children in the decision-making so that they are more on board with it, explaining why it is important to have these boundaries in the first place, and listening to their concerns.

3. Monitor online activities

Regularly monitor your child's online activities, but do so respectfully and transparently. Use parental control software to keep track of their online interactions and ensure they are not engaging in or becoming victims of cyberbullying.

If you are not sure how to do this, you can take a look at Kidscape’s advice on how to set up parental controls.

4. Stay informed and let your child educate you

Be curious about what apps your child is using, the games they are playing, and who they are talking to online. Let them teach you how it works. You cannot be expected to be a digital wizard, and your child knows more than you about their online world. Let them have fun teaching you!

Keep yourself updated about the latest social media trends, apps, and online platforms that your child might be using. Understanding their online world will enable you to have more meaningful conversations and provide relevant guidance.

Kidscape’s Online Safety and Cyberbullying Awareness course for parents and carers is a great place to start.

5. Encourage critical thinking

Teach your child to critically evaluate online content, including messages, images, and videos. Help them identify clickbait, fake news, and potentially harmful content.

6. Report and block

Teach your child how to report and block individuals who engage in bullying behaviour. Most platforms have reporting mechanisms in place, so make sure you and your child know how to use them effectively.

7. Foster confidence and self-esteem

Encourage your child's self-confidence and self-esteem. When children feel secure in themselves, they are less likely to be negatively affected by online bullying. Highlight their strengths and help them understand that online negativity often stems from others’ own insecurities.

8. Nurture respect for others and empathy

Educate your children about the importance of treating others with kindness and respect, both offline and online. Discuss the concept of empathy and help them understand the potential impact of their words and actions on others, even in the digital world.

9. Be a positive role model

Model the behaviour you want to see in your child. Set a positive example: Set screen time boundaries for yourself, too, and make sure your child sees you are polite and kind to others, both face-to-face and online. Understanding your family's digital habits is a fantastic way to lead on screen time boundaries, encouraging a family agreement rather than dictating rules.

10. Know the warning signs

Be aware of the signs that your child might be experiencing online bullying. These could include sudden changes in behaviour, reluctance to use devices, withdrawal from social activities, and changes in academic performance. If you notice any of these signs, initiate an open conversation and seek professional help if necessary.

11. Do fun, offline activities as a family

Put down your phones and tablets and do something together! Spend some quality time offline - maybe you can play a board game, bake together, or go on an adventure outdoors. The possibilities are endless!

In the digital age, protecting our children from online bullying is an ongoing effort that requires active engagement and open communication. By staying informed, fostering a safe and supportive environment, and providing guidance, you can empower your child to enjoy the benefits of the internet while avoiding its dangers.

Remember, your involvement can make all the difference in ensuring your child's online experiences are positive and enriching.

Kidscape is an award-winning bullying prevention charity in the UK.

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