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Parenting: Protecting Your Child From Cyberbullying

With email, messaging, online games and a slew of social media sites like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook, it has become easier than ever to torment and even blackmail someone online. Kids and teens are particularly susceptible as they are immersed in virtual connections while trying to build social ones.


What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the intentional and repeated harm inflicted on someone through the internet, social media, texts and games using digital devices like cell phones and computers. It can involve name-calling, physical threats, spreading rumors and posting explicit pictures of someone online. It is common among kids and teens.

In a poll by the Pew Research Center, more than half of teens said they had been bullied online.

The U.S. Surgeon General Advisory in early 2023 on Social Media and Youth Mental Health cites studies that found "a consistent relationship between cyberbullying via social media and depression among children and adolescents." It warms that online abuse and harassment have a disproportionately negative impact on young transgender people and adolescent girls. 

These experiences can emotionally damage a child, or worse. In November 2023, the Washington Post traced nearly 200 cases of bullying that ended in suicide. 

The many and dizzying ways of targeting kids on the internet make protecting them seem impossible. But a few strategies and steps can teach them how to be alert to cyberbullying and stay safe.

How to prevent cyberbullying

  • Protect children's accounts. Warn children not to share passwords with anyone and to password-protect their phones so no one can use it to impersonate them. (And make sure you and your children's caregivers know those passwords and codes.)
  • Check settings. Sit down with your kids to review the privacy settings on their devices, including apps and channels like YouTube, gaming sites and, of course, their phones. 
  • Review appropriate behavior — theirs and others. As they grow, kids are learning how to behave. It's easy for them to take teasing too far, posting a picture or gossip that could harm someone. They also need to recognize when comments and requests from others are inappropriate, when to push back and when to tell you.
  • Periodically check their devices, their email, social media sites and games. It's a pain, but your child may be too embarrassed to tell you that someone has posted pictures of them or is bullying them in some other way so you'll need to do some sleuthing.

How to spot when your child is being cyberbullied

  • Pay attention to changes in a child’s temperament and conduct. Are they moody, withdrawn? Have their grades dropped? Do they dread going to school? Are they upset after reading a text or going online? Explore whether these changes are related to digital interactions.
  • Talk about bullying. Have regular casual conversations and be supportive. Perhaps tell them of an experience you had as a child. Let them know that they can always turn to you.
  • Ask questions to learn what is happening, how it began and who is involved. Your child may be too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about the bullying and instead internalize it so be sure to ask questions without being confrontational.

How to stop cyberbullying

  • Don't respond! It's best not to engage with the bully. Instead, get friends to provide support and deflate the negativity by posting positive comments.
  • Block the bully. Most social media apps and services will allow you to block the person.
  • Keep records. suggests capturing screenshots of harmful posts or content whenever feasible, to document what’s happening, which will be important later if you need to press charges.
  • Report it. Contact the social media platform, preferably in writing. Most platforms have well-defined policies and processes for reporting and removing inappropriate content. If a classmate is involved, report it to theschooland make sure it will take the bullying seriously and that there will be no repercussions for reporting. If you witness a child being physically endangered or suspect criminal activity, notify local law enforcement.
  • Offer support. If your child knows someone being bullied they can help by posting positive comments about that person, shifting the conversation in a positive direction, or reaching out to express concern.
  • Talk and listen. Keep talking to your child about what has happened — and keep listening. If you think professional support is needed, find a guidance counselor or mental health professional who can help your child cope with the situation.

Additional resources

For more tips go to

The Cyberbullying Research Center provides information and resources like fact sheets for parents, descriptions of the most popular social media apps, a state-by-state map of laws and places to report bullying.

Several government agencies provide good advice on cyberbullying. The FTC has advice on how to protect kids online and deal with bullying.The Department of Health and Human Services site has helpful tips on how to report cyberbullying as well as a guide on ways to prevent it. Or call their hotline 1-800-273-8255.

Contact an expert at Love is Respect for support. If private images have been taken and shared online without permission, Take it Down can help get them removed.

Many companies offer good information on how to protect yourself and your child. 

Apple, for example, has detailed instructions on privacy and other settings for your child's devices. Google provides guidelines on appropriate behavior when communicating with others, and the Interland gaming site turns digital safety lessons into hands-on practice.

Both Apple and Google provide links for reporting bad behavior. Keep a copy of your report and follow up.

Learn more

8 Strategies to Keep Your Child Safe — Online and Off

How to Keep Your Child Safe from Violence, Exploitation and Abuse


TOP PHOTO: Teaching your kids a few strategies to be alert to bullying can help keep them safe. © UNICEF/UN0699708/Bauyrzhan Sabitov
TOP PHOTO: Teaching your kids a few strategies to be alert to bullying can help keep them safe. © UNICEF/UN0699708/Bauyrzhan Sabitov