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Getting help with cyberbullying incidents
At this age, cyber ostracism is likely accidental rather than intentional. It is important to discuss with your child why they feel they are being deliberately left out of a game, and be guided by their answers to that line of questioning. Help them understand that this may not be on purpose and that their friends may just be getting carried away with what is happening in the game for them. If however, it is deliberate, engage the help of the school if you identify peer conflict issues that involve other children, and help your child find ways to raise this issue safely and respectfully with friends. Role-playing with children can be very helpful to assist these discussions and to identify how the situation makes them feel, and actional tips they can use. Providing regular social interactions away from technology where children can reinforce meaningful friendships is also a good idea.
This can be very upsetting for parents, so it is important to firstly identify and regulate your own feelings around this issue before speaking to your child. Try to remain calm and reassure your child that you are going to help them solve this, and you are with them each step of the way. You should increase online supervision of your child and use this as an opportunity to talk about what your child should do if this happens again (i.e.; they should always tell you if they have a negative experience online). Don’t remove access to devices, as that can send a message that your child has done something wrong, or reduce the chances they will come to you for help in future.
You need to report and remove any particularly negative messages and block or restrict the sender until the conflict is resolved. Talk to your child about how this came about and enquire about whether this was an issue that started at school. Be mindful that there are always two sides to the story and you may wish to speak to your child’s teacher to gain more information. Take steps to give your child practical strategies and language to help resolve the conflict and (where appropriate) take responsibility for their part.
This is rare, however, it can happen at this age if a child is accessing a platform that is inappropriate for his or her age. Utilise parental control tools to limit or restrict access, and review the app or game here for potential risks. It is important to discuss with your child that accessing platforms that are not appropriate for their age can lead to upsetting situations like this, and that they should be sure to always talk to you if someone targets them. Block the person trolling your child, and report them to the respective platform as well.
This is rare, however, it can happen at this age if a child is accessing a platform or talking to people that are inappropriate for his or her age. Utilise parental control tools to limit or restrict access to certain platforms, and review the app or game here for potential risks. It is important to discuss with your child that accessing platforms that are not appropriate for their age can lead to upsetting situations like this, and that they should be sure to always talk to you if someone targets them. Take screenshots and record any details about the person and account, block the person communicating with your child, and report them to the respective platform as well. It is also helpful to ensure your child gets professional help if they are significantly upset by the situation, or are confused by mental health themes due to this conversation.
At this age, nasty messages may be a reflection of what is happening in the classroom or schoolyard. Try to remain calm and find out more about why this may be happening, and why they chose to share messages of this nature. Ask your child if they are having problems at school with another child, or if there is anything they are feeling down about, and ensure they know you are there to support them in navigating any issues. It may be worthwhile speaking to your child’s teacher to ask about how your child is engaging with others and if there are any concerns that you need to be aware of. Help your child solve any social problems they may be having and discuss practical ways you can approach issues such as apologising, or staying calm by using mindfulness techniques in the future.
This is not an uncommon issue in this age range. Be assured that you are doing the right thing in saying no. Most social media platforms have a minimum age of thirteen years old and typically, the content and features available are not ideal for younger children. This, however, does not take away from the fact that if your child's friends are using a particular social media platform (such as TikTok), your child may be feeling left out. Firstly, explain to your child that your decision to not allow them access is driven by your objective to keep them safe. Help your child identify other more age-appropriate activities that they could do with their friends, and make a particular effort to support them in spending time on these activities (such as through play dates, etc.). More detailed advice on navigating peer pressure situations is available here. Finally, be aware that it is not uncommon for children in this age range to be using social media without their parent's permission. To help prevent this from happening to you, ensure that your child's devices have been set up to make use of the device parental controls, and use a parental control tool. Guides and advice on managing your child's tech can be found here.
Gaming as a social activity ramps up within this age range, especially with gaming features that facilitate multiplayer communication. Unfortunately, this can be accompanied by social exclusion (cyber ostracism) through these games. Exclusion can result from differences in game preferences or parent access permissions, skill level, or as a product of existing peer issues. Talk to your child about what is going on to try and establish why they are being left out, and to identify if it is accidental or intentional.
If the exclusion is intentional, talk to your child about how they could go about addressing the situation. For example, you may provide your child with guidance around how to raise the issue with their friends, or encourage them to invest more time with other friends/friendship groups. If the problem persists, ask your child if they would like you to get involved, such as contacting the school or helping them with language and ideas they could use to address the situation.
If the exclusion is accidental, encourage your child to speak to their friends about how they are feeling, and provide opportunities for other chances to socialise.
If someone has set up a fake social media account impersonating your child, you can help them report the account directly to the platform. Information on how to do this for the various social media platforms is available here. Be aware that depending on the platform, this can take time and require proof of identity before they will remove the account. For detailed information on addressing the issue of impersonation accounts, including those hosting cyberbullying content, see here. Ensure any other accounts the child has have their passwords reset and are restricted to private.
As the uptake of social media, games with chat functions, and messaging apps increases through these years, so too does the misuse of these features. If your child is the target of unkind messages online, try to remain calm and avoid taking away their device or cutting off access to their game/app. This can send the message that your child has done the wrong thing and deter them from coming to you for help in the future. In saying this, you need to report and remove any particularly negative comments and temporarily put a stop to the nasty messaging. To do this, delete the upsetting messages and block or restrict the sender. Information on how to do this on specific games and messaging apps can be found here. The restrict feature can be useful as it does not alert the bully that they have been restricted/blocked. Have a conversation with your child about how the messages came about and encourage them to consider what approaches they could take to resolving the conflict. Be mindful that nastiness of this nature is not always one-sided. If you find that your child has said some not-so-great things, remain calm and non-judgemental but encourage them to take responsibility for their part. Guidance on how to approach this conversation can be found here.
Many of the games popular with this age group (such as Among Us, Fortnite, etc.) have the ability to allow play with strangers. If your child is being trolled, the first step is to block and report the offending account. Advice on how to do this on various apps and games is available here. You will then need to establish how/why the stranger was able to contact your child. More popular and established multiplayer games should provide options to limit who your child is playing with. To determine what privacy and safety settings are available in the game in question, search for the game title in our App & Game Review section here. Games that do not have the ability to limit whom a child can be contacted by are not recommended for this age group. A reassuring conversation with your child is also important. This is a good opportunity to reiterate what you would like them to do in future if they see something online that makes them uncomfortable, or if a stranger contacts them. Additional information on what you might cover in this conversation is available here.
Reassure your child that they are safe and haven't done anything wrong.
Take screenshots of the material and, where possible, record other information, such as the profile name of the account that the messages came from. Once you have collected evidence, delete the messages and report and block the profile that was sending them. Instructions on how to do this across various apps and games are available here.
If you suspect that the messages have been sent by someone from your child's school, contact the school to report the issue. Using the internet or a phone to encourage a person to harm themselves can be a crime. Where required, seek legal information from your local police.
If you feel that your child is experiencing ongoing emotional distress, contact your school's student wellbeing team, Kids Helpline or a counselling service. Some wellbeing support resources are listed here.
If your child is being threatened, or if they indicate a wish to harm themselves, you should get professional help. Call emergency services immediately if their physical safety is at risk.
At this age, nasty message exchanges are generally the result of a child feeling that they have been wronged in some way. Take a moment to calm yourself. Ask your child what happened in the lead-up to them sending the message/s and why they chose to respond as they did.
To facilitate the development of their conflict resolution skills, encourage your child to consider how they could have responded differently and what outcomes they could have reached with each approach.
Next, have a discussion about how your child can fix the situation.
Online exclusion as a byproduct of peer conflict is common at this age. Developmentally, children in this age range place greater importance on peer relationships, meaning the impact of being excluded can be quite profound. Although it can be excruciating to see your child ostracized, try not to panic. Your child needs to feel that you are calm and able to help them work through the situation.
Have an open conversation with your child and try to gauge how they are being personally impacted by the situation. For guidance on how to start this conversation, see here.
If the impact is significant, you may need to enlist the help of a school councillor, an online counselling service such as Kids Helpline, or a professional.
Provide lots of opportunities for other forms of socialisation focusing on offline activities that your child enjoys. Finally, encourage your child to think of ways that they would feel comfortable addressing the issue, reassuring them that you are there to help where they need it. Provide regular check-ins, and if the issue escalates, contact the school for guidance.
Peer group conflict is common in this age group and there is often an element that plays out online. Although it can be incredibly distressing to discover that your child is the target of nasty messages online, resist the urge to immediately contact the school or parents of the children involved. First, take a moment to collect your thoughts and have a calm conversation with your child about the situation. Encourage your child to identify the possible ways that they could address the situation (both online and offline), considering the pros and cons to each. More detailed guidance on this is available here. Support your child to identify the approach that they feel most comfortable taking and ask them how they would like you to support them. Regular check-ins and offers for help/guidance will be important. If the situation is having a significant impact on your child or the problem continues or escalates, consider contacting your school's wellbeing team for guidance, and explore additional support resources here.
Children in this age group are typically relatively well-versed in using the platform safety features to block and report someone who is trolling them. If your child does not know how to block another user, then figuring this out together is a good mutual learning opportunity. To learn more about the block and report features available on the platform in question see here.
Although they may be more guarded with what they share with parents, children in this age range still require assistance in cases of serious cyberbullying.
Reassure your child that they are not in trouble and that your priority is to help them. Remain calm and ask your child about the extent of the situation (How often is this person contacting them? What platform/s are they making contact on?).
Collect evidence, including screenshots of the messages/comments and profile that the messages are coming from, and any other information that may be helpful in identifying the account/person. Secure the evidence on your own device, and delete the content from your child's device.
Report the comments/messages and profile to the platform and block or restrict the profile. Instructions on how to do this on various social media, messaging, and gaming platforms is available here. If you suspect that the messages have come from a school peer contact the school.
Using the internet or a phone to encourage a person to harm themselves can be a crime. Where required, seek legal advice from your local police.
If you feel that your child is experiencing ongoing emotional distress, contact your school's student wellbeing team, Kids Helpline or a counselling service. Some wellbeing support resources are listed here. If your child is being threatened or if they indicate a wish to harm themselves, you should get professional help. Call emergency services immediately if their physical safety is at risk.
Nasty messages are often the result of a physical word peer conflict or issue. Your child might be feeling wronged or rejected because of something that has happened at school or in their social circles and may feel empowered to send messages like this because of the perceived anonymity or security of a screen or device.
Explain to your child that there are better ways to address conflict. At this age, your child may not yet have the skills to effectively deal with the underlying reasons why they are sending these messages, and may be impulsive or overreactive when dealing with conflict. To support your child’s problem-solving skills talk to your child about why they are sending these messages and what they hoped it would achieve. Discuss how they can better respond if a similar situation arises in the future, and strategies to reduce conflict. Encourage your child to take responsibility for their part by way of an apology, and to ask you for advice in the future.
At this age parents need to be reflecting on their own rules and why they are there. The majority of teens are developmentally ready to explore the world of social media with most already using at least one form of social media. Parents may want to think about a way to compromise on your goals with your teen when it comes to their digital life. If your teen chooses not to use social media then encouraging more access to face-to-face social interactions can be helpful to combat exclusion. If your decision is to not allow your teen access to social media because of specific reasons (e.g. you are worried about addiction) then it’s important to explain your reasoning in a calm way and facilitate a conversation around this. Aim to understand what gap social media might fill in their life. Then provide them with more access to face-to-face social interactions to combat exclusion.
Conversations with your teen will be the most powerful tool in helping them cope with this challenge. Often online behaviour is a reflection of what is happening in the offline world. We recommend exploring how this is impacting your teen and why this may be happening. Try to put yourself into your teen's shoes to get a thorough understanding of the issues that lead to this problem and the impact this may have on their self-esteem and behaviour. Education, communication and encouraging other forms of socialisation away from online games are the most effective ways to support your teen. Keep talking to your teen about their online gaming world, encouraging them to problem-solve situations and teaching them about conflict resolution strategies that they may wish to apply to the situation. Look out for any significant changes in behaviour. If necessary, seek advice from the school or from a professional such as a counsellor or psychologist.
Nasty messages between teens at this age are typically related to a larger peer conflict issue. Listen calmly and without judgment, and encourage your teen to talk to you about what is happening. Encourage your teen to consider what options are available to manage the issue and explore the pros and cons of each, and stay open and curious about their perspective. This provides an opportunity for your child to practice their conflict management skills with the support of your guidance, and feel they have some control over the situation. Provide regular check-ins and if the situation is having a significant impact on your child, or the problem continues or escalates, consider contacting your school's wellbeing team for guidance and exploring the additional support resources here.
Teens in this age group are typically relatively well versed in using the platform safety features to block, restrict and report someone who is trolling them. If your teen does not know how to block another user, then figuring this out together is a good mutual learning opportunity. To learn more about the blocking, restricting and reporting features available on the platform in question see here. If someone continuously and repeatedly targets your teen, it may also be helpful to involve your local police service.
At this age, young people generally have a fairly good understanding of the technical tools available to help them block and report cyberbullying.
If they have not already done so, help your teen capture evidence of the cyberbullying material and take steps to ensure the person can not continue to contact them. Instructions on how to report content and block a contact on various apps are available here.
Let your child know that if they would like to talk to someone else about what has been going on, there are lots of options available to them, including their school counsellor, the wellbeing support organisations provided here, or another counselling service (where applicable).
Using the internet or a phone to incite or encourage a person to harm themselves can be a crime. Where required, seek legal information from your local police.
At this age, your teen would have a reasonably good understanding of what is and isn't an appropriate way to communicate respectfully online.
If the messages are a result of difficult social dynamics, help your teen to try and work these problems out. Conflict resolution skills take time and repetition to master, and guidance is needed as your teen is nearing adulthood. Explain that nasty messages need to stop and seek legal advice from reputable resources (such as these) that you can use to legitimise this issue with your teen. Discuss the need to block and report anyone that is sending harmful messages and take screenshots as evidence.
If your teen is the target of serious threats or intimidation, report and block the online profiles and seek professional help from the police.
If your teen needs emotional support, ask the school for advice and support in mitigating the issues at hand. Get further help from a counsellor or psychologist if your teen is showing any unusual problematic behaviour.