Cyberbullying can happen on social networking sites, like Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, in Internet chat rooms, blogs (online journals), Instant Messaging, on photo or video sharing sites like Youtube and in online gaming. Children using social networking sites and blogs are particularly vulnerable to this as these areas may feel private and personal but are open to misuse.
People may create a ‘spoof’ profile of your child on a social networking site, so it appears to be their own page and making up hurtful things or posting humiliating images of them. The creator of this may just think it is a joke but its impact on a child can be devastating as this spreads around a school or community. The far-reaching nature of the Web means that these pages can be seen all over the world.
Photos innocently posted to pages or websites can be altered or merged with other images and text.
Children may be bullied in a chat room with name-calling and malicious gossip, whether they are present or not.
This type of bullying will often go alongside other forms such as via mobile phone and in the playground so there is no escape and a child can feel victimised at every turn. This can lead to misery, anxiety, a sense of isolation and desperation. If you notice any change in your child’s behaviour or temperament, reluctance to go out and do things they usually enjoy or go to school, you need to find out what is causing it. As with other forms of bullying, they may be reluctant to talk about it because they have been threatened. Ask them to show you what sites they are visiting and look at their own pages to open up the conversation.
You may need to talk to the school to try and get this stopped. Report any abusive language or images to the site provider and make sure they are removed. Any sexual or racist content should be reported to the police.
Talk to your children about cyberbullying before it happens so they are prepared and know they can talk to you if anything worries them. Also make sure they know how it feels so they don’t become bullies themselves.
Digizen website - Includes powerful online video showing the impact of cyberbullying on young people.
Childnet international website - information on blogging safety
Internet Content Rating Association website - an international, non-profit organization of internet leaders working to develop a safer internet