Cyber bullying affects people from any age or walk of life, including children, teens and adults who all feel very distressed and alone when being bullied online.  Cyber bullying can make you feel totally overwhelmed which can result in many feeling embarrassed that they are going through such a devastating time, and not knowing what support is available to them.  Many children feel unable to confide in an adult because they feel ashamed and wonder whether they will be judged, told to ignore it or close their account which they might not want to do.

For many cyber bullying affects their everyday lives and is a constant source of distress and worry.  With mobile technology being so freely available it is an ongoing issue and one that is relentless.  Not only does it go on after school, college or work has finished, but it then carries through into the next day and the cycle continues.  It has been well documented that cyber bullying has resulted in tragic events including suicide, and self-harm and clearly, more needs to be done in order to protect vulnerable children and adults from online bullying.

If you are worried that your child or a loved one might be the victim of cyber bullying here are some signs to look out for:-

  • Low self-esteem
  • Withdrawal from family and spending a lot of time alone
  • Reluctance to let parents or other family members anywhere near their mobiles, laptops etc
  • Finding excuses to stay away from school or work including school refusal
  • Friends disappearing or being excluded from social events
  • Losing weight or changing appearance to try and fit in
  • Fresh marks on the skin that could indicate self-harm and dressing differently such as wearing long sleeved clothes in the summer to hide any marks
  • A change in personality i.e. anger, depression, crying, withdrawn

What can you do to support someone who is being bullied online?

  • Reinforce that no one deserves to be treated in this way and that they have done nothing wrong
  • Ensure that they know that there is help available to them
  • Encourage them to talk to a teacher that they trust so they feel they have somewhere safe at school to go to
  • Encourage them to talk to their parents/carers and if this isn’t possible to write a letter or speak to another family member
  • Take screen shots of the cyber bullying so that they have proof this is happening
  • Report all abuse to the relevant social media networks by clicking on the “report abuse” button
  • Keep a diary so they have somewhere safe and private to write down their innermost thoughts and feelings which will help to avoid feelings bottling up
  • Give praise for being so brave and talking things through which will hopefully empower them to take responsibility and get help
  • Sending abuse by email or posting it into a web board can be harassment and if this has happened make a complaint to the police who can trace IP addresses etc
  • Ask the school if they have a School Liaison Police Officer that can help in this situation and talk to the school about the dangers and effects

Recent statistics show that

  • 20% of children and young people indicate fear of cyber bullies made them reluctant to go to school
  • 5% reported self-harm
  • 3% reported an attempt of suicide as a direct result of cyber bullying
  • Young people are found to be twice as likely to be bullied on FB as any other social networking site.
  • 28% of young people have reported incidents of cyber bullying on Twitter
  • 26% of young people have reported incidents of cyber bullying on

Ref: Beat Bullying Virtual Violence II report commissioned by Nominet Trust

Ditch the Label

What support and help is available

We know that cyber bullying can have devastating impacts on some children and young adults, especially when they feel there is no let up from the abuse.  So what help is available if you feel your child might be in danger of self harming or having suicidal thoughts?

Keep the school involved and put things in writing so you have a formal record of what has been going on.  Ask the school if there is any pastoral support your child can access.

If your child has started to self-harm talk to your GP and a professional organisation who will be able to give you some much needed support such as Harmless or The National Self Harm Network Forum.

Remember that you are important too so it’s crucial that you are taking good care of yourself.  The more relaxed you are feeling the better able you will be to support your child.

If you are worried that your child is having suicidal thoughts seek some medical advice from your GP. Young Minds is a national charity committed to improving the emotional and mental wellbeing of all children and young adults under the age of 25. They have a parents’ helpline where you can talk your situation through with a trained adviser.

But it’s not just children, Family Lives understands that cyber bullying affects adults too. We know that cyber bullying can also have a devastating impact on adults and can make you feel extremely isolated.  It is very easy to post malicious and hurtful posts on social media sites as there is very little moderation and posts can go “live” before they can be reported.  This can leave people feeling very vulnerable and at a loss as to what they can do.

So what can adults do if they are the victims of cyber bullying

  • Report the abuse to the relevant social media site
  • Take screen shots of the abuse so you have a record even if the posts are removed
  • Involve the police if you feel nothing is being done to stop this bullying
  • If the cyber bullying is done by work colleagues, involve your HR Department so they are aware of what is going on, and give them copies of the screenshots.  Ask them to put this on your personnel file.
  • Get some legal advice if you feel this is appropriate as cyber bullying might be deemed as harassment.  Some solicitors offer a free initial consultation so make use of this.
  • You have the option of blocking the people that are cyber bullying you but this obviously doesn’t stop it from continuing.  However, if it saves you from having to see the abuse and improves your emotional wellbeing it is definitely worth considering.
  • Find out more about how to deal with cyber bullying

We know it can take time for reported posts to be removed from social media sites and this only adds to the distress that users feel.  Knowing that a post is “live” and nothing has been done to remove it can leave people feeling extremely stressed so it is important that people know what they can do.  Having someone to talk to is crucial and can be a real lifesaver.

Family Lives are always here to offer emotional support so if you feel talking things through with a trained support worker would be helpful do use our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222.