What Cyberbullying Is and What It’s Not

Cyberbullying is a major concern for parents and teachers. The Department of Education’s Anti-bullying site offers advice to parents and teachers on how to identify and respond to cyberbullying to keep children and young people safe online.

When trying to keep children and young people safe online, prevention is always better than cure, but when cyberbullying does happen it is important that parents, teachers, children and young people all know how to respond and where they can go to get help.

What cyberbullying is not

Before we get into cyberbullying, it is important to distinguish that it is not the same as conflict or disliking someone online – even though these things may sometimes lead to cyberbullying.

If someone teases or behaves in a mean or aggressive way once, it isn’t bullying. It is not okay, but it isn’t bullying. A fight or disagreement between friends isn’t bullying. Once these actions become an on-going, aggressive and targeted matter, that is when they become classed as cyberbullying incidents.

How to respond to cyberbullying

The Department of Education’s Anti-bullying website refers to cyberbullying as the act of bullying behaviour using the internet or digital devices. It might include:

  • sending abusive texts and emails
  • posting unkind messages or images
  • imitating others online
  • excluding others online
  • tagging people in pictures against their wishes
  • threatening another person to do something such as sending revealing images.

Teach children and young people to follow the following steps to reduce and prevent cyberbullying:

  1. don’t reply or respond – bullies thrive on the reactions they get from their victims.
  2. save the evidence – take screenshots of cyberbullying posts so that you can use them as evidence later.
  3. tell a trusted adult – you do not need to deal with bullies by yourself, teachers and parents can help.
  4. report cyberbullying – this could be to your school or in more serious cases to the police and the Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

Reporting cyberbullying

When it comes to reporting cyberbullying, digital citizenship expert Dr Talitha Kingsmill recommends having a CPR plan in place:

  • CONTACT the social media platform, school, eSafety Commissioner or police.
  • PROVIDE evidence of the issue.
  • REVIEW your practice/actions for next time.

What happens when things go wrong?

It is important to keep communications and discussions open and honest. Talk about what they do when on the internet. You can also use this as a chance to encourage good behaviours and remind them of actions they can take.

  • Remind your child to tell a trusted adult if they are bullied online.
  • Talk with your child and understand the ways in which they are using the internet and their mobile phone.
  • Encourage your child to only be friends online with people they know in day-to-day life.

What to do when a child reports cyberbullying:

  • Listen carefully
  • Discuss a plan of action
  • Involve relevant school personnel
  • Implement a plan and follow up

Download the Anti-bullying- parents and carers online bullying fact sheet (PDF 223.73 KB) or go to the Anti-bullying website for more information.

For more serious cases, reporting directly to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner is recommended. Go to:

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