How to tackle cyberbullying

Matilda put it best – “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”

As a small child, I was frequently bullied by some not-so-wonderful kids in the playground; their parents blissfully unaware (despite one of them actually working at the school.) One of my earliest primary school memories is of Mum marching through the quadrangle to “tell off” the older students who had been stealing my lunches. Despite claiming to be mortally embarrassed at this rampant display of mothering, I remember feeling secretly impressed at her bravery during the battle of ‘Supermum vs. the Meanies’. My how the tables have turned when we consider bullying today….

The statistics are unsettling. Australian studies have revealed that approximately one in four students (27%) are bullied every few weeks; more frequently for the unlucky. Repeated school bullying was highest among Year 5 (32%) and Year 8 (29%) students- as if that first day of high school wasn’t nerve-wracking enough!

Under threat of intervention by teachers (think detention, loss of privileges, or that phone call to Mum and Dad) bullying continues to move into the ‘anonymous’ online space. Using digital communication methods, “covert” bullying (that is, aggressive behaviour that is “not seen by adults”) can include anything from spreading rumours, hurtful teasing, social exclusion, and creation of fake social networking pages.

As our kids get older, the method of technology used in attacks moves from mobile phone contact to social networking harassment. Far from being anonymous, most students (88%) reported knowing the identity of the person doing the bullying. Students are 91% likely to be bullied by someone in their own age group (and generally of the same gender.) Not surprisingly, those who bully others are most likely to be bullied themselves. What goes around comes around? Absolutely.

Far from the days when parents could stroll through school grounds (sans visitors pass!) to confront the meanies, most students keep quiet about aggressive behaviours in fear of having their internet privileges taken away. Of those that did report bullying to a trusted adult, most help was deemed ineffective with some students reporting the situation worsening after adult intervention.

So where does that leave us as parents, teachers, and trusted friends? Have a read of our factsheet- “Cyber bullying, a guide for parents and families” containing all the tips and tricks for a safe and happy cyber-year in 2013.

  • Draw a line and know when it’s been crossed – don’t respond to a bully as if they’re ignored they will often lose interest.
  • Avoid forwarding messages or pictures that may upset others as forwarding malicious material means you’ll be part of the problem, not the solution.
  • Know the signs – bullying victims will often keep quiet. Tell-tale signs include sudden computer shutdowns when you walk into the room and withdrawn or irritable behaviour such as mood swings, anxiety and sleeping troubles.
  • Talk and take note – encourage everyone in your family to talk and share if they run into any issues. If an incident gets out of hand, print out all evidence of bullying, block and remove any bullies from social networking sites and report the issue to your child’s school.
  • Enjoy time offline – switch off mobile phones and laptop computers at night time and leave them on the kitchen bench.

Finally, remind your kids that Lifeline and Kids Help Line are just a phone call away if they don’t want to confide in you personally (and reinforce that’s totally okay).

And if all else fails, I’ll check if my Supermum is available for a call-out. (Cape optional of course.) 😉

Photo credit


  1. Helen says:

    Thank you, a well written article that I will share with my husband and sons. Love the image of Mum in the school yard.

  2. anonymous dude says:

    this whole concept of ignoring bullying is the worst thing that can be done. The bullies will either find someone else to pick on or just keep on picking on u anyways cause there is no one else. and when people ignore bullies especially when they are picking on someone else nothing gets done the bullying goes on forever and i am talking from personal experience.

    terrorist are bullies do the government give into their demands? no the government tries to fight them…..

    it is the duty of care of everyone to stand up against bullies and when you stand up to bullies they do stop.

    the problem with bullies they hang in packs cause they are gutless. there were times when they would push me to the ground and kick me til they got bored. there was no one who would come to my aid in fear of the same thing happening to them but if everyone stood up to them they would stop but everyone was too scared.

    i tried every tactic against bullies

    i hid in the school library
    well they would get me on the way to and from school.

    i tried to tell the teachers but they believed the bullies as there was more then one of them and their word against mine…

    later in life in the work place i tried to ignore them and all they did was to intensify the bullying until i got so sick i could not work anymore and going to the boss was a waste of time he took their side.

    the only time it ever stopped was when i showed a sign of force and stood up to them. this did stop it and they left me alone and tried to pick on someone else so i stood up for them as well.

    i even stood up (verbally) against teachers who bullied students lets say that did not go so well as the school ofc did not appreciate that

    the only problem was that the school thought i was a trouble child as i got into fights etc when i was only trying to defend my self.

    bullies have made my life a living hell but i still say standing up to them is the only way.

  3. Sally says:

    Having just been confronted with my 11 year old girl having her holidays ruined by a bully who very effectively used the chat rooms ( previously used to organize plays ) to slander and socially isolate her. You are right she personally knew them same age and gender.

    It was a tough call I wanted to rip the girls heart out tell the parents of all and shut down social media. But I had to take several deep breaths and try to use it as a learning experience for her and the perils of the cyber world. As you say I really need her to keep talking to me when things are tough and if I had reacted as I wanted she may not come to me next time.
    It is harder being a parent this time than it was for my older ones because of the technology (I can’t quite keep up)! I need to do a course I think.

  4. Dee says:

    This is an important issue however with child and adult bullying have you noticed how much attention is given to the victim to ignore it or call Lifeline or Kids Helpline, and block the person, however the bully/ies do not seem to factor in the equation. What this means is we are creating a society of ‘victims’ respondingf to the cruel distressing behaqviour of others while the behaviour continues or moves on to another target. When reading these articles – and there are many of them in the bullying literature – note how many strategies are mentioned to address the bullying behaviour. How many workplaces tolerate bullying, being prepared to tolerate it or turn a blind eye. This allows these cruel behaviours to become social norms and will persist unless as a group or society we band together and say no to bullying.