Online bullying is any bullying behaviour via online services or platforms (e.g. gaming, social media, messaging services, forums, and chatrooms). It can happen to any child, at any time, for any reason.
It can be conducted by a peer or strangers in settings and contexts where reach is heightened and diverse. This form of bullying is usually repeated and can hurt a child emotionally and physically. Unlike bullying offline, online bullying can follow a child wherever they go and can take lots of forms.
It can include:
- Creating and sharing embarrassing images or videos.
- Trolling – the sending of menacing, nasty, or upsetting messages on social networks, chat rooms, or online games.
- Excluding children from online games, activities, or friendship groups.
- Shaming someone online.
- Targeting a child repeatedly in an online game.
- Setting up hate sites or groups about a particular child.
- Voting for or against someone in an abusive poll.
- Creating fake accounts (catfishing), hijacking, or stealing online identities to embarrass a young person or cause trouble using their name.
For adults involved in a child’s life, it can be difficult to know what to say and do when a child speaks out about bullying. If your child is experiencing online bullying in a school, college, or club then make sure to report it to staff. You should also utilise block and report functions of social media or gaming platforms. You can also contact the police on 101 for advice as some behaviour may break the law – for example harassment, stalking, malicious communication, and threats.
Click or Tap this box to learn more about where you can find support
If you need guidance and support on issues affecting children you can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 500 or email [email protected]
- Text-A-Nurse: is a text messaging service for parents and carers to access professional nursing advice on young people’s health and wellbeing issues.
- Parentline: is a free and confidential helpline and online chat service for parents and carers in Northern Ireland.
- ParentingNI: provide a free support line and webchat for parents and carers in Northern Ireland.
- Childline: If you require help and support in confidence, you can call Childline on 0800 1111. You can find additional resources on bullying and cyberbullying on their website.
- Lifeline is Northern Ireland’s crisis response helpline. If you, or someone you know, is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone and follow-up with other support if necessary. The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Youth Wellness Hub
- Anti-Bullying Alliance
Things to consider
- Signs – It can be difficult to spot when a child is being bullied. Look out for changes in a child’s mood, like losing confidence or being upset and withdrawn, and possible changes in physical appearance, or problems with eating or sleeping.
- Talk to them about online bullying – A child may feel really scared or embarrassed about experiencing bullying. They may also be worried about what will happen if they tell anyone.
- Reassure them and let them know that it isn’t their fault and that they can talk to you about anything. If they don’t want to talk to you or another trusted adult, suggest they contact Childline.
- Avoid banning – Restricting access to online platforms is not usually an effective solution. It can feel like a punishment for the child and may discourage them from confiding in you about serious topics in the future.
- Report – Ensure you and your child know how to use the reporting and blocking functions of the platforms they use.