For family and friends
Parents, carers, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles and friends can all help children and young people who have been targeted by cyberbullying.
Support that is non-judgemental and focuses on their experience and what they are feeling is the most useful. You can make a huge difference by just being there for them.
On this page:
Cyberbullying is when someone uses the internet to be mean to a child or young person under 18 so they feel bad or upset. It can happen on a social media site, game, app, or any other online or electronic service or platform. It can include: posts, comments, texts, messages, chats, livestreams, memes, images, videos and emails.
These are some examples of ways the internet can be used to make someone feel bad or upset:
- Sending hurtful messages about them.
- Sharing embarrassing photos or videos of them.
- Spreading nasty online gossip about them.
- Leaving them out online.
- Creating fake accounts in their name.
- Tricking them into believing you are someone else.
For most children and young people, online life is a key part of their identity and how they interact socially.
So cyberbullying can be very harmful, making them feel a range of emotions from fear to anxiety, anger and a sense of hopelessness. They may suffer trauma and ongoing depression.
Cyberbullying content can be reported to the online or electronic service or platform that was used to send, post or share it. This is usually the fastest way to get it removed.
If the service or platform does not help within 48 hours, and the cyberbullying is serious enough, eSafety can direct them to remove the harmful content. For eSafety to investigate, the child or young person must live in Australia. Also, the type of cyberbullying must meet the legal ‘threshold’. This means it must be likely to harm their physical or mental health because it is seriously threatening, seriously intimidating, seriously harassing or seriously humiliating.
A parent or guardian can report serious cyberbullying to eSafety even without the consent of their child, if they are able to collect the evidence required.
Note: A young person who has recently turned 18 can report cyberbullying to eSafety, if they do it soon after finding out the harmful content was posted or shared. People who are 18 or older may be able to report an adult cyber abuse complaint.
Signs to watch for
Children and young people may not always tell an adult about cyberbullying. This may be because they fear their parent or carer will overreact and make the situation worse, or stop them using their devices or the internet. Or it may be because they feel ashamed, especially if they have also been involved in bullying others online.
Some signs that could mean they are being cyberbullied:
- being upset after using the internet or devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops
- appearing sad, lonely, angry, worried or upset more than usual
- feeling or looking sick or tired
- unexpected changes in friendship groups
- not wanting to be around people, even friends
- avoiding school, out of school care, clubs or social activities
- not doing as well as usual at school
- changes in personality, such as being more withdrawn or anxious
- changes in sleep patterns, eating or energy levels
- becoming secretive about their mobile phone use or what they are doing online.
What you can do
- If they don’t raise it with you, let them know you have noticed they are feeling or behaving differently and you would like to help – and that you won’t be angry with them or ban them from their devices (banning can make them more lonely, isolated and rejected).
- Tell them they don’t need to face difficult issues on their own and that it’s OK to talk to someone instead of you – make sure they have contact details for support services such as Kids Helpline and Headspace.
- Listen without judging when they do talk – ask them how they feel and let them know you can understand why what they are going through is upsetting.
- Let them know there are ways to deal with cyberbullying – you could show them eSafety’s pages about reporting cyberbullying, or the ones written specially for kids aged 5-8, kids aged 8-12 or young people (13+), as a way to start discussing what to do.
- Help them follow the steps for reporting harmful content to the online or electronic service or platform used to send, post or share it. Reporting links for most sites, games and apps can be found in The eSafety Guide. If the cyberbullying is really serious and the service or platform does not remove the harmful content within 48 hours, help them to report it to eSafety.
- Help them to update the settings on their devices and accounts so they can control the people who can contact them or see what they are doing. They can also use their settings to ignore, hide or mute upsetting posts and comments – you can find helpful links in The eSafety Guide.
- If they are still struggling, encourage them to speak with a counsellor or even a doctor.
Resources you can use
There’s more useful advice on these pages, written specially for parents and carers.
Cyberbullying and online drama
Keeping children safer in their digital playgrounds
Report cyberbullying to eSafety
If the cyberbullying is very serious, and the service or platform has not helped within 48 hours, a child or young person under 18 (or an adult they have authorised to help them) can report the harmful content to eSafety using our online form.