Effects of cyber bullying

Estimated read: 7 minutes 

Cyberbullying 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.  

Key points:  

  • Report all abuse to the relevant social media networks by clicking on the “report abuse” button
  • Consider blocking as an option, although it may not stop the bullying it saves you from having to see the abuse and improves your emotional wellbeing it is definitely worth considering
  • You can also report bullying to an organisation called Report Harmful Content online and they can help to get things taken down
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Cyberbullying 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 cyberbullying affects their everyday lives and is a constant source of distress and worry. With 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  • A change in personality i.e. anger, depression, crying, withdrawn

Supporting 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 someone they trust 
  • Encourage them to talk to their parents/carers 
  • Take screen shots of the cyberbullying 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

  • 7 out of 10 children were emotionally affected by the online bullying behaviours experienced
  • 70% children who experienced online bullying said this was by someone from their school
  • 26% of children did not report their experiences to anyone
  • 1 in 5 children experienced at least one type of online bullying behaviour

Statistics are from the Office of National Statistics 

What help is available

We know that cyberbullying can have devastating impacts on some children and young adults, especially when they feel there is no let up from the abuse. 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.

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. 

We know that this 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.

Advice for adults experiencing online 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 this is withing work. 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 cyberbullying 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 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. 

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. You can also report bullying to an organisation called Report Harmful Content online and they can help to get things taken down.

This page was updated on September 2021

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