Insight and advice from Childline on online bullying

Childline data

The main types of online bullying children have got in touch with Childline about since the lockdown include:

  • People sending threatening or abusive text messages.
  • Being pressured into sending sexual images or engaging in sexual conversations.
  • Being excluded by other children from online games, activities or friendship groups.
  • Other people creating fake accounts, hijacking or stealing a child’s online identity to embarrass or cause trouble using a child’s name.
  • Credit-Tom-Hull-Photography. Child-pictured-is-an-adult.

Quotes from children who contacted Childline about bullying during the lockdown and Alex Gray, Childline Service Manager

“Ever since lockdown began, all of my friends have completely stopped talking to me and they’ve blocked me from social media. I’ve no idea why they’ve done this, it’s made me so paranoid. Now I’m really scared to go back to school. I don’t know who I’ll talk to”. (Boy, 15)

“I’m off school right now cos of Covid, but the bullies are still mean to me on social media. They text me saying things like I’ve got no friends, or will go on and on about how dumb I am. Sometimes I wish I was in school; I’d rather them punch me instead of saying horrible things about me all the time on the internet.” (Girl, 12)

“My best friends at school have been calling me names over Xbox during lockdown. They have been calling me fat and it upsets and hurts me because they were my friends before lockdown. I wish they could feel what I am feeling because then they would stop

  1. I am worried about going back to school and seeing them in case they carry it on”. (Boy, 10)

Alex Gray, Childline Service Manager said: “Every year thousands of children contact Childline about their experiences of cyberbullying and tell us it can feel impossible to escape. Lockdown has exacerbated these feelings for many young people and from April to October our trained counsellors held more than a thousand counselling sessions with young people about online bullying. 

As we are now in another national lockdown in England, many children will now face the prospect of spending more time online. Bullying can have a significant impact on their mental health and wellbeing and this can be felt long into adulthood, so it is vital that we are here for them and that they know who they can turn to for help and support.”

Advice from NSPCC and Childline

 For children

Talk to an adult you trust about the online bullying you are experiencing so you feel less alone and they can support you. This could be a parent, teacher or you can speak to a Childline counsellor on 0800 1111. You can also use Childline’s online message board to speak with other young people and share your experiences and feelings with children your age who are going through a similar situation.

  1. Take a break from looking at your phone and do something you enjoy such as sport, listening to music or art.
  2. Report and block someone if they are sending you messages that upset you.
  3. Remember the bullying is not your fault.
  4. Get into a healthy routine and make sure you look after yourself by eating healthily, getting enough sleep and taking time out for yourself.

 For Adults:

 Signs to spot

 Although it can be difficult to identify that a child is being bullied online, here are some things parents can look out for:

  • Not wanting to go to school or take part in normal activities
  • Getting anxious or angry if you go near their device
  • Feeling withdrawn, upset or angry at home
  • Problems sleeping or eating
  • Having angry outbursts that seem out of character
  • Spending more or less time online than normal

What to do if you think your child is being bullied online?

  1. Talk to your child about what they like to do online and ask them what worries them. This is good way to encourage them to come to you with anything that might be making them feel anxious or sad.  If your child speaks to you about a negative experience they’ve had online, try to remain calm and don’t overwhelm them with questions and reassure them that it will be ok, and that you’re always there for them.
  2. Show them how to report or block a message from someone that upsets or worries them.
  3. Don’t take their device away if they’ve had a negative experience online. Although you may want to do this if they are upset, this may make them feel like whatever has happened is their fault.  Instead, suggest they take some time away from the app they received the messages on and do another online activity they enjoy like playing a game.
  4. Know where you can get further support. Adults can call the NSPCC helpline for advice on 0808 800 5000.  Also, the NSPCC also information for parents and carers about other online issues that might affect young like Cyberbullying and Sexting.

How to keep your child safe online

At the NSPCC, we have partnered with O2 and co-created the website Net Aware, which brings you reviews and the latest advice about the apps, sites and games your child is using. Net Aware combines the NSPCC’s expertise in protecting children and O2’s tech know-how, to help you keep your kids safe online.

Net Aware has tips to help keep children safe from cyberbullying. The website also has articles on keeping kids safe on conferencing apps  and 8 tips for keeping your kids safe online during lockdown, as well as an online safety in lockdown hub.

Here is some quick and memorable advice for parents so they can make sure their child is safe online by working together as a TEAM.

T – talk about staying safe online

E – explore their online world together

A – agree rules about what’s ok and what’s not

M – manage your family’s settings and controls