Protecting our (increasingly younger) children from cyberbullying

With Term 3 just around the corner, many of us are gearing up for a busy end to the year.

And in between the hustle and bustle, many of us with school-aged children, will see our kids continue to navigate study and friendship groups, and how these intersect with their online lives. 

There is no doubt the internet has given children and young people new opportunities to learn, play and socialise. However, this increased online presence, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, also exposes them to new harms and risks.

Concerningly, reports to eSafety’s cyberbullying complaints team show younger children are increasingly experiencing negative online behaviour. Reports of serious cyberbullying of children between the ages of eight and 13 years has more than tripled compared to pre-pandemic 2019 – jumping from a little over 200 complaints in 2019, to almost 740 in 2022.


What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying encompasses a range of harmful behaviours, such as sending abusive messages, hurtful images or videos, spreading malicious gossip, excluding or humiliating others, and creating fake accounts to deceive or embarrass someone. 

Disturbingly, the types of cyberbullying we are seeing from younger children have become increasingly sophisticated and harmful. Impersonating other children online to undermine their reputation has become a disturbing trend, often leading to more abuse from others.

Online bullying can have devastating effects on young people, as their online lives are intricately linked to their identities and social interactions.

What we can do to keep kids safer online

We can play a pivotal role in helping our children establish boundaries that protect them from potential harm. 

As eSafety often sees a correlation between school terms and cyberbullying, we urge parents and caregivers to consider the following advice as kids head back to school in Term 3:

1. Show interest and be engaged

Take an active interest in the online games your children play and the social media profiles they follow, just as you would make time to play a physical game with them at a local park or engage in a board game. Staying involved in your child’s digital activities can help you identify when they might need support. 

2. Monitor online activity

Familiarise yourself with the platforms and services your children use and check the minimum age guidance. Some social media accounts your children follow may discuss concepts and ideas that are not age-appropriate for your child. Regularly check and ensure the content they engage with aligns with their developmental stage.

3. Promote device usage in open areas

Encourage your children to use devices in open areas of the home, such as the living room, rather than isolated spaces like their bedroom or bathroom. This way, you can easily interact with them, understand who they are communicating with, and identify any signs of distress.

4. Activate age-appropriate parental controls and privacy settings

Double-check you have implemented parental controls and privacy settings that are suitable for your child's age and level of online maturity. These measures are not failsafe but can help enhance their safety while browsing online.

What to do if your child is being cyberbullied

As parents, our first instinct may be to ban our children from social media, disable the wi-fi or turn off the data access. But this can actually compound the problem, making your child feel as if they’re being punished and heightening their sense of social exclusion.

If you find it’s happening to a child in your care, there are simple steps that can help minimise the harm.

  • Collect evidence of the of the cyberbullying material
  • Report the cyberbullying to all platforms and services where it is occurring. If the material is not removed, make a report to eSafety
  • Use the in-app functions to ignore, mute, hide or block the other person. 
  • Reach out for more help if your child needs counselling or support to manage the impacts – there's also help available for you.

Find out more about how to report cyberbullying.

Regardless of your child’s age, eSafety is here to help.

Keep these links handy for ways you can support your family’s online safety.