How to deal with cyber bullying

03 September 2015 ( 04 January 2019 )

If you – or your grandchildren – are being targeted by cyber bullies it can be very distressing. But there are steps you can take to minimise it. Here’s how.

The internet is now used by almost everybody and, inevitably, that includes the less desirable members of society who cower behind the anonymity of the medium to post upsetting and, in some cases, devastating abuse. 

Whilst online abuse is more common due to the anonymity of a Twitter account, for example, cyber bullying can also spill over on to texts via mobile phones, which is just one of many reasons why no one should give out personal details to people online. 

So what can you do if you – or your grandchildren – are being targeted by cyber bullies? Here are a few steps on how you can respond to it. 

Harmful messages

If the cyberbullying has taken on a truly sinister stance and you are on the receiving end of threats of violence - including sexual violence - then keep a record of the messages via a screenshot and report the harrassment to the police. 

Don't engage

If it is unthreatening but still unpleasant then don’t give the bullies the satisfaction of knowing you are upset. Just ignore it, much a you want to fight your corner; once they realise you’re not going to participate then they’ll move on to someone else.

In general, try to avoid situations that may result in conflict, if you know you are easily upset. Whilst healthy debate in real life can be enjoyable and fun, online it can become heated much faster than you expect. Before you engage with someone who holds a radically different opinion to you, ask yourself - do you really think you'll change their mind? Odds are, you will not. Perhaps write out a well put together response filled with intelligently worded rebuttals for your own peace of mind, then delete it and get on with your day.

Block communication

Block their email address and mobile phone number and delete them from your social media contact lists.

Report it

Several of the most high-profile social media platforms will include detailed methods of how to report someone who has been not using their social media responsibly. 

Facebook, for example, has a strategy in place for reporting misuse even if you don’t have an account with the platform. 

For more tips read our guide to staying safe online

If you think your grandchild is being bullied: 

• Watch for any behaviour that might indicate they are being bullied, such as being distressed or anxious after receiving a text or going online. Are they quieter than usual, or angrier? 

• Friend them on Facebook or other social media sites to keep a watch on who posts and whether it is distressing or not. Even insidious, 'harmless' comments can indicate something going on. Suggest they ‘unfriend’ anyone posting messages that could be construed as harassment, and explain why certain comments are unacceptable.

• Encourage them to tell you if they are being bullied, and reassure them that they will not lose their computer or mobile privileges if they confide. Acknowledge their feelings and take the time explain why the cyberbullying may happening - stressing that it's not their fault. 

Tips on avoiding cyberbullying

• Remember to never give out any personal information, such as passwords to anyone; you might be friends now but the future might hold a different story.

• Don’t spread rumours, however tempting and juicy they might be - you might unwittingly be adding to someone else's burden.

• Think twice about what you share online. If you are planning to upload a photo or video, always check with whoever appears in the photo or video that they are happy for it to be shared. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.