Life & Style
Just like bullying in the real world, cyberbullying (i.e. bullying via technology) can have a horrible and traumatic impact on a victim. It is something that affects many young people in the UK, but it can often go unnoticed. So it is important, as an adult, to be able to understand what cyberbullying is, how to recognise when it is happening (especially if it is happening to your grandchild) and what you can do about it.
Different types of cyberbullying
- Text bullying – receiving nasty or threatening text messages.
- Nuisance/prank calls – someone might call your grandchild on their mobile and say unpleasant things to them.
- Publishing and sharing images without your grandchild’s permission – photos, videos or webcam footage could be circulated via email or text, posted online, or tagged with your grandchild's name on a public website.
- "Happy slapping" – cyberbullies might use their mobiles to take photos or videos of your grandchild while they verbally or physically abuse them.
- Email and instant message (IM) bullying – your grandchild might receive nasty or threatening emails or IMs from someone they know or from a stranger.
- Chat room bullying – a fellow chat room user might say rude things to, or about, your grandchild.
- Cyberbullying via a social network – someone might post nasty messages about your grandchild on a site such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, set up a fake profile about them, or "frape" them, which involves getting access to their account and posting messages pretending to be them.
- Bullying during interactive gaming – if your child plays multi-player games, a fellow gamer might try to verbally abuse, block or ignore them.
Young people who have never bullied anyone in real life might be drawn into cyberbullying because they think they’re anonymous when they use the internet or their mobile. They may do things they wouldn’t dream of doing face-to-face. Or they may succumb to peer pressure and forward a bullying email or take part in a bullying conversation on a social networking site without thinking about the consequences.
What can you do?
Talk to your grandchild about cyberbullying and ask them what they know about it. Make the most of your privileged position as a grandparent - sometimes they will talk to you more easily than they would to their parents.
Ask them things like:
- Have they ever received an email or text that upset them?
- Has anyone posted a photo or video of them online without their permission?
- Have they been involved in bullying someone else online or via their mobile?
Also read our online safety tips for grandparents for more advice.
If you think your grandchild is being cyberbullied
- Reassure them that they have done the right thing by telling you what’s going on.
- Explain that they shouldn't respond as it might make things worse.
- With their parents, preferably, get them to create a written record of the cyberbullying. Gather evidence by saving text messages or printing out emails and screenshots of websites – and don’t delete anything.
- Make the most of built-in tools on your child’s internet or mobile services to prevent further cyberbullying – for example, you can remove the bully from 'friends' lists and set your child’s social network profile to private, if it isn’t already.
- If your child thinks the cyberbully is a fellow student, talk to their teacher – it’s compulsory for UK schools to have an anti-bullying policy in place so that teachers know what action to take.
- If you think a crime has been committed or if you’re worried your grandchild is in immediate danger, contact the local police – even though cyberbullying is not a specific criminal offence in the UK, other laws might apply.
If you think your grandchild may be cyberbullying someone else
- Talk to them about cyberbullying and explain why it’s unacceptable and has to stop.
- Have an open discussion – ask them why they’re doing it and listen to what they say.
- If they didn’t realise that what they were doing was bullying, explain that bullying is not just physical – using technology to tease, embarrass and spread rumours is also bullying.
- If that doesn't work, you may have to talk to their parents and their teacher about what’s been going on and let them know that the family is willing to work with the school to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
- Reassure your grandchild that you still love them but make it clear that their behaviour must change.
- Encourage them to tell you or a teacher about any bullying that they witness, including cyberbullying incidents.