Tips on dealing with cyberbullying on social media

The Belgian Safer Internet Centre is sharing guidelines for children and youth, parents and educators to follow in order to deal with cyberbullying incidents that may potentially arise on social media. 

Date 2021-06-10 Author Belgian Safer Internet Centre Section awareness Topic cyberbullying Audience children and young people, teachers, educators and professionals

Behaviour towards the victim

  • Pay attention to the signals students send: notice unusual behaviours or introspective attitudes, the creation of new alliances, a group always mocking the same child, a child that suddenly starts getting bad grades, and so on.
  • Take victims seriously when they come to you and reassure them. Insults and threats must not be taken personally. It is not their fault. Free them from the sense of guilt.
  • Do not promise a quick solution to the problem. Online incidents are often very complicated.
  • Tell the victim not to react or respond to the harmful messages. It will worsen the situation.
  • Show the victim how to block the profiles or accounts that caused the problem. Then, show them how to report litigious and/or embarrassing content (messages, pictures, videos) on social media.
  • Victims can also change their username or create a new email address. In the future, they can use two addresses: one for their trusted friends (who shall promise not to share it) and the other for larger circles of acquaintances and for websites and social media.
  • If bullying persists and becomes hateful, you can call the local or federal police. Do not forget you have to provide clear “evidence”.
  • Teach the children to save evidence and/or to screenshot discussions and unwanted content. Tell them to note the date and time. Pretending to be someone else, sending pictures of someone else without their consent is prohibited by law and thus punishable.
  • Inform the parents if you believe they are unaware of the situation and could help the victim.

Behaviour towards the bully and witnesses 

  • Make it clear that you do not accept this behaviour. Zero tolerance.

  • Talk to the author and ask them why they are doing it. Bullying is often considered as teasing or as a joke. The  author sometimes does not realise that they are hurting the victim or engaging in punishable acts.
  • Do not punish directly. Show bullies their responsibilities. Make them understand the consequences of their actions. Ask them: “how would you react if it happened to you?” or “would you dare say those things if that person was physically in front of you?”
  • Demand that the bully stops immediately and makes amends.
  • Talk to the witnesses and tell them they are also responsible for this online incident. It is their responsibility to disapprove the actions of the bully, and to support and help the victim. They also have to stop the diffusion of harmful content. Involve them in remedial actions.
  • Inform the parents if you think they are unaware of the situation.
  • Do not demonise social media. Despite some incidents, the internet is still a great tool that enriches children’s and teenagers’ environment.

Find out more about Safer Internet Day in Belgium. Alternatively, 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 can be found in the resource repository and in the Guide to apps section.

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