The internet has transformed modern life in so many positive ways. With the good, however, comes a dark side that is impacting young lives like never before.
The rise of the internet has brought the emergence of cyberbullying. This form of bullying occurs not face to face, but online, using a computer or mobile device and through social media.
Over 40% of children have experienced cyberbullying, with around a quarter having been targeted on more than one occasion.
While ‘traditional’ forms of bullying centre on face-to-face mental and physical abuse, cyberbullying means anonymity from behind a screen, meaning it is difficult to tackle.
With physical bullying, a child can retreat to the safe haven of their home. Unlike physical bullying, cyberbullying can happen anywhere. The child cannot always escape their perpetrator.
Hearing a child is being bullied, either online or in person, is one of the most heartbreaking aspects of parenthood.
But what can parents do to protect them? How can parents keep children safe when the situation is largely out of their control?
Vacancy.Care knows parents simply want the best for their child and to keep them safe from harm at school or while in care.
In this article, we take a look at cyberbullying, including the warning signs and important statistics. We delve into the effects and consequences of cyberbullying for children, and what parents and schools can do about the issue.
Effect of cyberbullying
So what exactly is cyberbullying?
It is a deliberate and repeated action with the intention to hurt, scare, shame upset, exclude or embarrass another person using electronic means (including via mobile devices and the internet.)
A cyberbully uses the following forms of electronics to target their victim, including:
- Text messaging.
- Instant messenger services.
- Online discussion forums.
- Social media websites, such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
- Chat rooms.
- Websites, such as blogs.
Cyberbullying is common among children and teenagers, but not limited to this age range, with some adults reporting incidents of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying includes the following:
- Name calling.
- Nasty or mean comments, such as on a person’s social media status, photo or in reply to a comment.
- Starting rumours.
- Making threats.
- Videos or photos intended to shame, upset or embarrass another.
- Creating ‘blackmail files’ to gain leverage over a person at a later stage.
- ‘Trolling’ and stalking a person.
What are the warning signs of cyberbullying?
All parents should know the warning signs of cyberbullying among children. These include:
- Refusing to go to school, or getting upset at the thought of going to school (particularly on a Sunday evening or after school holidays.)
- Increased moodiness, anger or anxiety.
- Avoiding sports, activities or social occasions, and becoming increasingly withdrawn.
- Obvious signs of change in behaviour, appetite or sleep.
- Decreased interest in schoolwork, or failing grades.
- Refusing to use technology or social media – or has a noticeable increase in use.
So what are the effects of cyberbullying?
There are many negative effects of cyberbullying. Regardless of whether it is a child or adult being bullied, each of these effects are detrimental to a person’s health and mental wellbeing.
These effects include:
- Heightened emotions, such as hurt, anger, sadness and feeling afraid.
- Confusion at the situation, such as a change within their group of friends.
- Feeling isolated from their peers, and lonely.
- Feeling embarrassed.
- Low self esteem and reduced confidence.
- Anxiety, stress, depression and other mental health problems.
- Reduced interest in academic life.
- Antisocial behaviour.
Consequences of cyberbullying
What are the consequences of cyberbullying
Earlier in this article we discussed the immediate, negative effects of cyberbullying. If the bullying stops, these negative effects tend to subside.
Short term bullying, or one-off incidents of teasing – as difficult as they are for a child to experience – generally do not lead to further consequences.
Prolonged, ongoing cyberbullying, on the other hand, can lead to serious consequences and devastating results.
Table 1 looks at the common effects of bullying, the consequences of those effects and some possible results if no action is taken.
These consequences and results highlight the absolute importance of identifying and stopping incidents of bullying before they escalate.
|Effect of bullying||Consequence of action/s||Result|
|Decreased interest in school||● High absenteeism
● low academic achievement
● dropping out of studies altogether
|Fewer prospects for employment or further studies
|Low self-esteem or reduced self-confidence||● Depression
|Self harm, suicidal thoughts and in extreme cases, suicide|
|Increased anger or ‘acting up’ at home or school||● Antisocial behaviour
● Drinking or using drugs
|Increasingly erratic or dangerous behaviour, bullying others
|Feeling isolated and lonely||● Bottling up feelings
● Becoming increasingly withdrawn
|Self harm, suicidal thoughts and in extreme cases, suicide|
|Feeling like there is ‘no escape’||● Becoming increasingly withdrawn from social activities and peers||‘Running away’ from home to escape, suicidal thoughts|
Another study also found that young people who had experienced bullying were almost 10 times more likely to be victims of identity fraud later in life.
This statistic alone suggests the long term consequences of bullying are far more influential to a child’s future patterns of thinking, behaviour and choices than a parent may believe.
Cyber bullying statistics
As technology becomes more accessible by the day, so does the potential to encounter cyberbullying.
With over 80% of teens using a mobile phone or device on a regular basis, technology has never been so accessible for Australia’s youth.
But this increase in connectivity brings more risks and more potential to encounter cyberbullying.
Australia has some troubling cyberbullying statistics.
Research also revealed that 84% of children who experienced cyberbullying were also bullied in person. 85% of children admitted to being onlookers of bullying incidents, with some revealing they had also played an active part in the bullying.
Australian website Nobullying.com offers help to people of all ages looking for assistance with cyberbullying. In 2016, the website recorded a staggering 9.3 million visits.
All of this research shows just how prevalent bullying is among Australian youth. But perhaps the most troubling statistic in Australia, and elsewhere in the world, is the number of cyberbullying deaths occurring each year.
It is a sad and tragic fact, but cyberbullying has lead to death.
30 years ago, there was no such thing as cyberbullying suicide stats. Now, cyberbullying is the cause of at least 3 suicides each week in Australia.
Cyberbullying is a problem that has increased threefold over the last 10 years – and is rising each year.
The increasing integration of internet and technology into everyday life, the popularity of public forums and the ease of staying anonymous means cyberbullying deaths are also likely to rise along with this figure.
Cyber bullying suicidal deaths
Children as young as 12 years old have been lost to suicide in Australia. It is an increasing problem, with the number of deaths rising every year. Females aged 15-19 years old are at twice the risk of dying by suicide than their male peers.
One recent highly publicised death fitting this high-risk category is that of 14-year-old Amy “Dolly” Everett, the former face of Akubra, have shocked Australia and the world.
Dolly died after merciless bullying, and her parents started a campaign to raise awareness of bullying.
While high profile examples of death such as Dolly’s help raise awareness, the problem continues, with cyber bullying suicidal deaths increasing 32% since 2006.
Another article puts a face to just some of Australia’s cyberbullying and bullying sad suicidal deaths.
Cyber bullying suicidal death statistics
Cyberbullying is now taking the lives of more Australian children than childhood cancers, accidents and other diseases. It is now the leading cause of death among Australian youth aged 5-17 years of age.
Other research suggests victims of bullying are up to 10 times more like that their peers to consider committing suicide. For each young person who commits suicide, another 100 attempt suicide.
Cyberbullying deaths per year
With too many cyberbullying deaths per year in Australia, parents and youth need to know where they can turn to for help.
If a child has suicidal thoughts, the first step to take is call 000 and take them to the nearest emergency care facility.
If the child is self-harming, parents should take their child to see the family GP for an initial consultation. Insist on a referral if you are not given one by your GP.
They can also access the Suicide Prevention Call Back Service.
Solutions to bullying
Finding out a child is being bullied is the stuff of nightmares for any parent.
Whether a parent finds out from the child or from a third party, such as their school, the feeling is gut-wrenching.
There is a sense of sadness for the child and anger toward the perpetrators. Parents experience a feeling of loss of control over the situation, and helplessness that they could not help their child or protect them thus far.
The first thought many parents have is that they should march up to the school, the bullies or even the bully’s parents and demand action.
However, anger, violence and acts of retribution will not solve the issue.
That said, what are the best bullying solutions? Here are some strategies and tips for parents.
Understand the reasons why people bully others
It is important for parents to understand why others, particularly children, engage in acts of bullying. This will help parents explain to their own children why people bully, help them avoid instances of bullying and stress that bullying is never their fault.
- To gain a feeling of ‘power’ over another, or group of people.
- Due to a difference of opinion about something or someone, for example, a child bullying another for supporting a different football team.
- To gain ‘approval’ from within their own social circle and to ‘impress’ friends.
- Due to issues with anger and aggression.
Start by setting a good example for children
Ever yelled at someone from behind the wheel, or tailgated to intimidate another driver? Don’t.
By engaging in these simple examples of bullying bullying, then dismissing the incident to children, parents are subconsciously promoting that it’s ok to intimidate others.
Instead, don’t retaliate and walk (or drive away.) Treat people with respect and kindness, even if they don’t show you the same respect.
This will help set a good example for your children and help them build the resilience they need to avoid cyberbullying and deflect unwanted criticism throughout life.
Don’t brush off cyberbullying
Take it seriously from the start – do not brush off cyberbullying as something that is ‘not a big deal.’ Just because you can’t see the bullying happening or it isn’t physical, doesn’t mean it isn’t having an impact on the child’s life.
Instead, listen to their concerns and come up with an action plan for putting an end to the cyberbullying.
Stress that bullying isn’t their fault
Earlier in this section, we looked at the reasons children bully. These reasons are a good place to start when stressing to a child that bullying isn’t their fault.
Children bully for any number of reasons, and it is important that children realise they are not to blame. Nothing they have done is an excuse to be bullied.
If a child is feeling particularly sad, hurt and lonely, be sure to give them the love and attention they need. Give them the time to talk, then discuss their concerns as part of your action plan to bullying.
Talk to your child during their early education years
Even during their early education, many children experience the feeling of being left out by a group of peers, while others may have been teased or called a rude name.
While these situations are difficult to hear about or watch your child experience, they are an ideal opportunity to talk to your child about bullying.
Talk to them about why this happens and why people bully, such as for the reasons above.
Use clear, simple language. Give examples, and look for examples in books, television shows and movies. Explain some of the effects of bullying, such as ‘those girls made Ella feel hurt, sad and lonely.’
Be sure to ask open-end questions too, such as ‘what are those boys doing to make Jacob sad?’ and ‘how would you feel if you were left out of a game by your friends?’
These types of questions will help children better comprehend the effects of bullying.
Parents should also encourage children to speak up about bullying or cyberbullying from an early age, and tell a parent, friend, other adult or teacher if they are being teased, or know someone who is.
Talk to your child about social media
Getting that first mobile phone, Facebook account or another form of social media are ideal times for parents to speak to their child about the dangers of cyberbullying.
Some of the things to talk about with a child include:
- The various forms of cyberbullying, such as another child being rude or mean via text, email or instant message.
- How cyberbullying might make the child feel, such as hurt upset or lonely.
- Some of the consequences of cyberbullying, such as not wanting to go to school.
- Any rules and regulations parents want to set for their child for social media use.
- How to be safe online, such as not adding a ‘friend’ they don’t know very well, or at all.
- The importance of keeping passwords secure, and not telling other people.
- How to stop and think before posting something that may attract negativity among their peers.
- Stressing that the child should tell a parent or teacher if they feel unsafe or are targeted by cyberbullying at any time.
Disconnect before bed
It is common for cyberbullying to happen in the evening, when children and teens are online for homework or looking at social media. Parents should agree on a set time before bed to turn off the tech until the morning.
Find helpful resources
There are helpful resources children, teens and parents can turn to for more help.
- Kids Helpline, a phone and online service which offers an ear to listen for children who are being bullied.
- Office of eSafety, a service aiming to promote online safety for Australians.
- com is another online service providing help to people who have experienced cyberbullying.
- Headspace, an organisation dedicated to improving mental health, through nationwide centres and online resources.
- BeyondBlue, another national organisation dedicated to combating depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
Take further action
If cyberbullying escalates, parents can lodge a complaint at the eSafety website.
If the bullying becomes too much and parents and children feel increasingly fearful for their own safety, they should contact their local police.
Solutions for bullying in schools
When a child goes to school, there is seemingly little a parent can do to keep their child safe from bullies.
In reality, there are plenty of strategies parents can use to be a part of solutions for bullying in schools. A vital part of bullying identification, awareness and prevention is communication between parents and educators.
These strategies are listed below.
Strategies for parents
Work with the school
Some ways for parents to communicate with educators include:
- Consulting the child’s teacher and other education staff if a cyberbullying issue has occurred, especially if the perpetrator is a fellow student.
- Asking about the school’s anti-bullying policies – are they being actively
promoted and called upon when required to identify and prevent bullying?
- Being sure the teacher or educator is keeping an eye on students who may
have had conflict in the past, and rearranging seating if needed.
- Seeking further assistance from the principal if a teacher is not taking an active role to identify or prevent bullying.
- Parents should also consider becoming more active within the school’s
community by joining the P&C, for example. This will provide parents with a
better understanding of school procedures and better communication with
educators and other parents.
Strategies for the teachers and school:
Know the signs
First and foremost, teachers need to know what to look for to identify bullying or cyberbullying. Some of the signs of bullying among students include:
- Changes in friendship circles, such as peer rejection, students suddenly spending all their time alone, or interacting less with friends and peers.
- A personality change.
- Student is withdrawn.
- Frequent anger, crying or sadness.
- Increased absenteeism.
- Increased negativity in their attitude and behaviour.
- Being excessively sleepy in the classroom.
- Declining grades, or not completing homework.
- Thoughts of suicide, which need to be reported immediately to parents or carers.
With most Australian schools now relying heavily on technology as part of everyday schooling, internet safety must be taught, along with issues around cyberbullying.
Teachers and educators can employ the following strategies to help prevent cyberbullying:
- Take steps to teach internet safety, including not sharing passwords, not accepting requests from strangers and emphasising the effects of cyberbullying.
- Have set rules for internet use.
- Discuss cyberbullying with students using open ended questions, examples and activities that help students understand any form of bullying or cyberbullying will not be tolerated.
- Use promotional material to aide discussions and activities.
- Set projects that require students to take an in-depth look at bullying and cyberbullying, in particular projects that require students to work together, collaborate and compromise. This will teach them assertiveness without resorting to conflict.
- Take immediate action, such as confrontation, education and counselling. Cyberbullying requires a zero tolerance policy and students must understand action will be taken immediately.
- Be sure to confront in a private space. Bullies feel empowered by confrontation with their social group watching, leading to further instances of aggression.
- Get parents or carers involved, as they may not be aware of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying should never be taken lightly, whether you are the parent of a child who has been bullied or one who has bullied another.
Parents, carers, family and educators need to work collaboratively to identify, stop and prevent bullying.
As much as we wish we could, Vacancy.Care cannot stop your child being victimised by online bullies.
We can however, share our strategies to help you help your child be safe online. We can all teach our children to be kind to others and know there is help available if they need it.
Always make yourself available to talk to your child or another. You might just save one child from experiencing cyberbullying.