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Last updated: 27.02.20

How to spot signs of a child being cyber-bullied

With the dawn of the digital age and the proliferation of social media activity across the country, a new kind of bullying has emerged: cyber-bullying.

Cyber-bullying is a specific kind of bullying which takes place over digital channels like social media platforms and on mobile phones. It can involve all kinds of victimisation including online trolling, the sharing of private photos, the sending of abusive message, impersonation, cyber-stalking and more.

With the digital nature of cyber-bullying, it can be hard to spot cases unless the bullied person comes forward. In this blog, we take a look at how to spot the signs that a child is being targeted by a cyber-bully.

They become nervous when on their phone or computer

A good sign that a child may be the target of cyber-bullying is that they are nervous when responding to notifications on their phone, or while they are at the computer. One of the worst things about cyber-bullying is how easy it is for the bully to access their targets, and it can be hard for the bullied child to escape. When using their phone or computer, the child is vulnerable to real-time hate messages, trolling or flaming attempts, and so when they display nervousness when accessing phone or computer, it can indicate that they are being cyber-bullied.

They stop using phones and computers altogether

If your child has previous shown enthusiasm or has enjoyed using phones and computers in the past but has abruptly stopped in a short period of time, this can be a sign that they’re being cyberbullied. Cyber-bullying can be so severe that its target can want to turn the phone or computer off completely to avoid having to face the online abuse. The child might also try to hide their screen from you so you can’t see the abuse, either by only using it when you aren’t around or by turning the screen off in your presence.

They become worried about going to school

Cyber-bullying ca often transfer from the digital world to the real one, and cyber-bullying and real-life bullying rarely come without the other. If a child is scared or anxious about going to school, this can indicate that their tormentors are continuing the bullying offline, in the schoolyard or classroom. In these cases, after raising the issue with your child, it might be worth also getting in contact with their teacher with your concerns.

They become withdraw, anxious and depressed

Bullying, including cyber-bullying, is one of the leading causes of mental health issues among children in the UK. Depression, anxiety and low self-esteem are all examples of these problems – if you see the symptoms of these issues in your child, but you don’t see any evidence of real-world bullying, it may well be that your children is being targeted by cyber bullies. In this situation, it is important to talk to your child as soon as possible so that you can provide support from an emotional standpoint.

If you suspect your child is being bullied, either online or off, the first thing to do is to sit down and talk to them. If they don’t want to talk to someone they know, they can ring Childline on 0800 1111 for confidential support which may help them to open up. If you, as a parent, carer or teacher, want to know more about cyber-bullying and how to identify and prevent it, Virtual College’s informative and comprehensive courses offer intuitive training materials to grant a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. You can find our safeguarding course collection here.

You can also check out our useful and informative downloadable resources, including a guide to keeping your children safe online, a checklist on spotting the signs a child is being bullied, and a video on safeguarding children.

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