Online bullying can have a devastating impact on young people, whose online life is a key part of their identity and how they interact socially.

Cyberbullying behaviour takes many forms, such as sending abusive messages, hurtful images or videos, nasty online gossip, excluding or humiliating others, or creating fake accounts in someone’s name to trick or humiliate them.

I think my child is being bullied

Your child may not tell you if they are experiencing bullying behaviour online because of a fear it might make things worse for them or they may lose access to their devices and the internet.

Signs to watch for
  • being upset after using the internet or their mobile phone
  • changes in personality, becoming more withdrawn,
  • anxious, sad or angry
  • appearing more lonely or distressed
  • unexpected changes in friendship groups
  • a decline in their school work
  • changes in their sleep patterns
  • avoidance of school or clubs
  • a decline in their physical health
  • becoming secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use

What to do if your child is being cyberbullied

Try to resist immediately taking away their device

Removing your child’s phone or computer could be really unhelpful. Cutting off their online access does not teach them about online safety or help build resilience. It could alienate them from their peers, and it also removes an essential tool for them to communicate and connect with friends.

Stay calm and open — don’t panic

You want your child to feel confident that you’re not immediately going to get upset, angry or anxious if they tell you about the situation. You want them to know they can talk to you and feel heard. The best way to do this is make sure you have an open dialogue from the beginning. Talk to them without being judgemental or angry, and make them feel like they can come to you with anything, without fear of being punished.

Listen, think, pause

Gauge the scale of the problem. Does it exist in a peer group or is it more widespread? Is it a few remarks here and there? Or is it more serious? Empathise with your child and let them know that you understand how they feel. How badly is it affecting your child personally? If the bullying itself is not very intense, but your child seems quite seriously affected, this could be a symptom of something larger. In this case you may need to seek help, from a school counsellor, a helpline,or an external professional. Try not to respond immediately. Take some time to consider the best course of action. Reassure your child you are working on it and will come together again very soon to talk through some options. Let them know you are there if they feel like they need to talk in the meantime.

Act to protect your child if necessary

If your child is being threatened, or if they indicate a wish to harm themselves, you should get professional help. Call the child helpline immediately, if their physical safety is at risk.

Empower your child

Wherever possible, try to build your child’s confidence and help them make wise decisions for themselves, rather than telling them what to do. If you feel they may be struggling to open up to you, connect them with other trusted adults or with professional support.

Collect evidence

Before you or your child block someone or delete posts or other bullying material, take screenshots and collect evidence including dates and times. The evidence may be useful if the bullying behaviour continues and you need a record of how long it has been going on. You may also need evidence if you want to report it. However, if the bullying material involves sexualised images, be aware that possessing or sharing such images of people under 18 may be a crime, even if you have just taken a screenshot for evidence purposes.

Manage contact with others

Advise your child not to retaliate or respond to bullying messages, as sometimes people say hurtful things just to get a response and it could make things worse. If they have already responded, encourage them not to respond further. Help your child to block or unfriend the person sending the messages to limit contact with them. Help your child change their privacy settings to restrict who can see their posts and profile page.


Many social media services, games, apps and websites make it easy to report content posted by other people. If serious cyberbullying is affecting your child and you need help to get the material removed from a social media service or other platform, we can help.

Consider seeking support from your child’s school

Your child’s school may have a policy in place to address cyberbullying and may be able to provide support, whether or not the bullying is from a student at your child’s school. With your child’s agreement, talk to their teacher or the school counsellor.

If you notice any changes that concern you, get help for your child through a counselling or online support service.

This material has been adapted with permission from the Australian Government eSafety Commissioner. Permission to adapt content does not constitute endorsement of material by the eSafety Commissioner.