Cyberbullying: what can you do?

Bullying and cyberbullying often come hand in hand. School bullying is easily repeated online and goes on at home. Dealing with cyberbullying is part of a global approach in the fight against school bullying. It is important to establish an open conversation about the phenomenon, with children and parents. To help in doing so, the Belgian Safer Internet Centre is sharing some tips below.

Date 2021-06-09 Author Belgian Safer Internet Centre Section awareness Topic cyberbullying Audience children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, educators and professionals

We deal with cyberbullying with five main actions: towards victims, bullies, witnesses, parents and the institution.

How to prevent cyberbullying?

  • As a professional, you can raise awareness among your students about cyberbullying. Don’t wait until there is a problem to act.

  • Raise awareness about self-respect and respecting others, and about the consequences of cyberbullying.
  • Create an atmosphere that excludes bullying from the classroom. Make it a space where everyone has a role to play to stop it. Helping the victims by stopping the diffusion of hateful publications can be seen as a commitment. Solidarity will then prevail over mockery and kindness will cover up malevolence.

How to react to cyberbullying? The victim – the author – the witnesses

Towards the victim: reassure and support

  • First, reassure the victim and congratulate them for coming to you. This first step is difficult.
  • Focus on the facts. Don’t ask questions about the cause of the situation, that information is not necessary to help deal with the situation.
  • Take actions to solve the problem. Try to delete the hurtful content on the internet.

In any case, respect the pace of the victim, only take actions when they are ready and if they consent.

Tips for the victim

  • Do not answer the bully’s messages.
  • Block their number and/or email address.
  • Screenshot the messages.
  • Report them to the website or the app where they have appeared on.
  • Call a helpline. 
  • Keep the psychological centre or helpdesk of your school posted.

Towards the author: show some empathy

  • Zero tolerance: tell them any kind of bullying is unacceptable.
  • Do not stigmatise them and do not reinforce them in their bully role, it can worsen the situation.
  • Take the time to calmly talk to them about their responsibilities. Find the best way to make amends (apologies, talking to the victim) with them.
  • Work on their empathy and try to make them understand the emotions of the victim.

Towards the witnesses: give a sense of responsibility

  • Zero tolerance: tell them any kind of bullying is unacceptable.
  • Everyone has a role to play: we do not share hurtful content, we delete it.
  • Encourage them to help and support the victim.
  • Encourage children to use social media in a positive, honest, and kind way.

How to raise awareness among children about cyberbullying?

Help the class or group to become digital citizens. 

  • Talk to them about their online habits and why they do what they do.
  • Work with them on empathy. How would they react in different situations?
  • Help them understand the consequences of their actions on the victims.
  • Show them that what is funny for someone may not be for others.
  • Explain punishable conducts from a legal point of view.

Privileged solutions are mainly educational, preventive and informative.

The bully is often a friend of the victim who does not realise the seriousness of their actions. An educative strategy must be set in place with all the actors involved: children and youth, parents, schools, psychological centres, and so on.

Tips for children and youth

According to Safer Internet Centre colleagues from the Conseil Supérieur de l’Education aux Medias (CSEM), it is necessary to explain children and youth that:

  • Cyberbullying is a repeated and intentional violence. It can hurt me and others.
  • What is published online today can stay there “forever”.
  • Everyone has to take image rights into account. I cannot publish someone else’s picture without their consent, even if it is a friend. Especially if that picture can be harmful.
  • I can ask to delete a picture of myself published online at any time.
  • It is possible to configure the confidentiality and security parameters of online profiles and publications.
  • Caution is essential when talking to strangers.
  • Do not take for granted and share, without checking, potentially harmful content about someone else; everything that is published online contributes to create an online reputation for myself and others.
  • Social media work on a group dynamic. It is important that all members of the group are reminded that violence is unacceptable and take actions to end it. As members of the group, we all vouch for “well-being”.
  • Social media also offer ways to report a problem, such as blocking and reporting profiles and harmful content.

Find out more about the work and initiatives of the Belgian Safer Internet Centre, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe. On the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) platform, additional useful tools for parents, carers and teachers can be found in the resource repository and in the Guide to apps section.

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