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Children who cyberbully

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to intentionally hurt another person in an ongoing way. We explore the signs and how to help the child who is cyberbullying change their behaviour.

Cyberbullying is a form of behaviour that is inherently disrespectful of others.

It can also be illegal and there are serious consequences for cyberbullying that impact the victim, the bully, and their families and friends.

Cyberbullying happens on a spectrum and to different degrees. New technologies mean that cyberbullying is constantly changing as we discover new ways of connecting with one another.

Cyberbullying can include:

  • Harassment
  • Cyberstalking
  • Denigration/trolling
  • Humiliation
  • Exclusion
  • Trickery and manipulation
  • Impersonation and masquerading

Signs that a child you know could be cyberbullying others

If you see a child doing any of these things they could be cyberbullying someone:

Posting or sending messages using language that hurts somebody’s feelings

Using images to hurt somebody else e.g. sending or posting embarrassing photos/videos to shame somebody publicly

Pressuring another person to take part in something they don’t want to do or forcing someone to share their information

Liking, sharing, and/or commenting on posts that hurt somebody else which perpetuates the cyberbullying

Pretending to be somebody they know online or creating fake profiles to send messages to another person

Excluding others online e.g. removing someone from a group chat, creating a group chat and excluding someone

Trolling somebody by saying mean things to ‘stir them up’

Making threats towards another person

Helping kids understand their behaviour

The motivation behind cyberbullying may be different for each child. It is important that the child receives support to understand their behaviour and learn new ways of relating to people that is respectful.

Here are some reasons why kids cyberbully others:

  • They feel powerless in some aspect/s of their life so they want to get power from somewhere else
  • Wanting attention or status from their friends
  • Jealousy
  • Difficulty managing their emotions e.g. anger, frustration
  • Feeling unhappy and so they take it out on others
  • Modelling other people’s behaviour
  • Difficulty connecting with people and unsure how to establish a connection with others
  • They feel it is anonymous and they think there are no consequences and they believe they can get away with it

“I made mean comments about a lot of people online thinking no-one would know. They found out it was me and now I hate going to school because nobody wants to be my friend or play online with me” – Brock, 11 years old

Report Cyberbullying

You and your child are not alone when it comes to dealing with cyberbullying! You can make a complaint to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

Teaching kids respectful online behaviour 

As adults we have a responsibility to teach kids how to be respectful in their relationships both online and offline.

Discuss with kids the ways in which we can show respect to others. This may include:

  • Using respectful language and not swearing at people 
  • Not calling people names or making jokes at their expense 
  • Being kind to others and sending positive messages to cheer someone up
  • Thinking about how our actions may affect someone else e.g. if I send this message how would it make that person feel?
  • Respecting ourselves by not doing things to hurt ourselves e.g. ending friendships when the other person isn’t being respectful toward us
  • Understanding and accepting differences
  • Not saying mean things to other people, or about other people, even if you don’t agree with them
  • Ask people before you share information or photos about them 
  • Being anonymous online doesn’t mean we can say or do whatever we like
  • Recognising that there are consequences to our behaviour

Where to get more support

Preventing cyberbullying is the responsibility of everybody. If you know a child who is cyberbullying somebody it's important to intervene and stop the behaviour. There can be serious consequences if the cyberbullying isn’t dealt with.

For more support with this issue, contact our local Parentline service in your State or Territory. 

You could also visit the eSafety website to find out more about cyberbullying and what you can do. 

This content was last reviewed 08/03/2018

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