Is My Child a Cyberbully?

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We all make mistakes, however it can be difficult to admit when our children behave in ways we may not approve of. In this article we reflect upon the signs that could help identify whether a child could be engaging in harmful behaviour against others.

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is any bullying behaviour that takes place virtually. It can be harassment or humiliation over text, social media or any type of technology from one person to another.

Is Cyberbullying Different From Offline Bullying?

Cyberbullying is often linked to traditional bullying (e.g. bullying at school). In fact, studies have reported that it is relatively rare that a child experiences cyberbullying only. Some experts suggest that cyberbullying is an extension of offline bullying.

This indicates that children who are being cyberbullied might be in a particularly tough situation. They are likely to be targeted anywhere and anytime – at school and at home. It becomes very hard for them to escape the attacks.

Other factors that distinguish cyberbullying from offline bullying are:

  • Potential for a wider audience
  • Traces might stay online for a long time
  • Perpetrators can hide their identity

A Vicious Cycle: Another important characteristic of cyberbullying is that it is not uncommon for victims to become cyberbullies themselves.

Check Out This Video

Learn more about cyberbullying and its complex dynamics in today's digital world.

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Common Techniques of Cyberbullies


Posting provoking and insulting comments on social media posts, in discussion forums or on gaming platforms. Trolls can be complete strangers to their victims. Their goal is to trigger responses from other users to stir up arguments.


Continuously sending hurtful, threatening and abusive messages to a victim - can be classed as a criminal offence.


Distributing someone else’s personal details without their consent.


Making persistent effort to gain contact to a victim, often on the basis of intense feelings.


Spreading false information about someone with the intention to damage their reputation.

Revenge Porn

Publishing sexually explicit content of the victim on the internet. This kind of revenge might be pursued by an ex-partner after a breakup.


Creating a false profile on the internet to lure someone into a relationship.


My Child Might Be a Bully

Why do Children Bully Others?

Children and young people bully others for a range of reasons. They may be part of a friendship group that is bullying a particular individual, and they might have been put under pressure to participate in the bullying. In which case, they are also victims of indirect bullying and intimidation.

Alternatively, it could be that they experience poor or inconsistent discipline at home, or are being abused themselves. Whatever the reasons, it must never be condoned, only understood.

Signs that My Child Could be a Bully

It can be difficult for a parent to think of their child as a perpetrator. Signs of cyberbullying behaviour can be easily missed. You might not even find out that your child is bullying others until you receive a complaint from their school.

Some signs to look out for:

  • Testing limits and breaking rules
  • Aggression towards adults or peers
  • Little empathy towards victims
  • Obsession with popularity
  • Having friends who are bullies

As mentioned above, it is also not uncommon for the roles of a victim and perpetrator to become blurred in cyberbullying. This might be a possible explanation for your child’s behaviour – but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for attacking others.

Some children might also think that they are simply having a laugh. The latter might be particularly true for trolling, when the victim is not personally known to the child. That is why it is important to make sure that your child understands how online interactions can equally have an influence in people's feelings and wellbeing.


Steps You Can Take

Talk To Your Child

If you have been approached by someone else about your child’s behaviour, you should first have a conversation with your child. Be direct about the issue, but also give your child a chance to explain their side.

Encourage Empathy & Kindness

Help your child understand how the other child may have felt. Together reflect on the importance of kindness and the responsibility that we all share in building a more accepting and positive world. Explain why bullying is harmful and suggest positive approaches to handle negative feelings and possible conflicts.

Meaningful Consequences

Disciplining your child in a meaningful way can be effective. In cases of cyberbullying limiting or taking away the privilege of a mobile phone could be an adequate punishment. It might be also necessary to cooperate with their school. Explain the consequences and punishments to your child. Focus on your child’s behaviour rather than their personality – emphasise that what they did was wrong, but they are not a bad child.


Children are easily influenced by the behaviour of adults and peers. Assess if there are any unkind interactions occurring within your family environment that your child might be witnessing. As part of your reflection, reassure your child that you still love them, and model positive, calm behaviour.

If your child is wilfully cyberbullying or trolling someone with the intention of doing harm, then it's likely that underlying issues may exist. It could be that they are struggling to regulate and controlling their own emotions, or it could be an indication of distress in other areas of their life.



Relevant Contacts

For more information on cyberbullying and what to do if your child is engaging in bullying, check out these links:

If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact the NSPCC helpline to speak to one of their counsellors. Call 0808 800 5000, email or fill in their online form.

Other Resources

The SafeToNet Mobile Appis there to help your child navigate the difficult interactions that might arise when exploring the online world. Its Intelligent Keyboard acts as a real-time safeguarding assistant that helps educate your child on how to become a safer and kinder digital citizen.