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What is Cyberbullying?

If someone is using technology such as cell phones or computers to intimidate or harass a child you care about, that child is being cyberbullied. Cyberbullying may include:

  • Harassing or threatening someone through instant messages (IMs), text messages, or emails.
  • Posting private or embarrassing photos online.
  • Starting a website that rates someone’s appearance or popularity.
  • Verbally abusing other players in multiplayer online games, Internet-connected console games, and virtual worlds.
  • Creating fake social media accounts that ridicule someone.
  • Stealing someone’s password and then impersonating him or her online.
  • Spreading lies, rumours, or secrets online.


Is cyberbullying dangerous?

Cyberbullying can be very damaging emotionally, especially since kids and teens often find it difficult to avoid phones and the Internet. Cyberbullying can happen anywhere, anytime — whenever a young person is online or has their phone. And because of the anonymous nature of the Internet, certain forms of cyberbullying — like spreading abusive rumours — can happen quickly and discreetly, sometimes before the young person being targeted even knows it’s happening.


How can I tell if a child is being cyberbullied?

Kids and teens who are being cyberbullied:

  • May seem upset when online.
  • Avoid the computer or quickly turn off the computer when adults approach.
  • Seem reluctant to go to school.
  • Appear withdrawn, anxious, or depressed.


Talking to a child about cyberbullying 

Many young people try to hide cyberbullying from their parents or guardians because they’re afraid of losing their phone or computer privileges. But discussing the situation with an adult is the first step toward ending the harassment. So, if you are the parent or guardian of a young person who has experienced cyberbullying, it’s important to reassure them that you won’t take away their phone or computer privileges because of it. You should also try to avoid reacting with obvious fear or disappointment — it will just make them feel even more judged and alone.

It’s also important to prevent cyberbullying before it happens. You should develop clear rules about ethical online behaviour for the young people you care about. Tell them that no one should use the Internet to spread gossip, to bully, or to make threats against others, and that everyone should ask permission before they post and tag photos of others on their social networking pages. Try to make sure the young people in your life know how important it is to keep their passwords secret — even from their friends.


To help prevent cyberbullying, teach these four steps to the young people you care about:

  • Stop. It might be tempting to reply to a cyberbullying message, but it’s better not to retaliate.
  • Save. Don’t delete the message. Having a record can help a child prove what happened.
  • Block. Most websites — especially social networking sites, instant messaging services and forums — will let a young person block users whose behaviour is inappropriate or threatening.
  • Tell. Teach youth to tell an adult whenever they are being cyberbullied.


What to do if you know a child who is being cyberbullied 

  • Act immediately. Young people need to know that you can and will help. If the young person doing the cyberbullying is a student, consider reporting it to the school principal. If you feel that a child is physically at risk as a result of cyberbullying, call the police at once.
  • Stay aware. Keep computers in central locations where you can see them.
  • Be supportive. Don’t minimize what a child who is being cyberbullied is going through; listen to them, try to understand the impact the cyberbullying is having on them, and assure them that you are on their side.


Help is out there
Cyberbullying can be difficult to deal with because it can be very persistent. Young people who bully may not give up easily, so it’s important to check in with a child who is being bullied to make sure the problem is being resolved. Make sure they feel safe and supported.


If you know a young person who is struggling with a problem, big or small, encourage them to contact us. We’re free, anonymous, confidential, and available 24/7/365.

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