How to keep kids safe from online bullying

Online bullying (or cyberbullying) is a big problem in New Zealand with 1 in 5 young people being targeted.

What makes online bullying particularly harmful is that it can occur 24/7 making it difficult for kids to escape from it. Content can also be spread quickly online, to a lot of people on different platforms and can be hard to remove.

Online bullying covers the sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about someone and can include using personal or private information to embarrass or humiliate someone.

Here are some tips to help keep your kids safe from online bullying:

1. Start the conversation young

As soon as possible, start talking to your kids in an age-appropriate way about what online bullying is and why it’s not okay. Reinforce that there’s no difference between saying something mean in person and saying something mean online – both are harmful and not acceptable under any circumstances. Make sure they understand that something that is posted online can stay there forever. Also, teach them that if they are being bullied online, they need to tell an adult straight away.

2. Keep the communication lines open

Talk to your kids regularly about online bullying and safety and let them know they can come to you if they have any questions or need help. Try to stay calm and be non-judgemental when they tell you things. If you overreact, they might shut down and stop telling you things in the future.

3. Be tech-savvy

Learn about the social media platforms your kids are on and how they work. Talk to your kids about which ones they are on and why and what’s good or bad about them.

4. Keep devices in a common area

Depending on your kids’ ages, you can keep their devices in a common area such as the living room so you can monitor usage. It also gives you more of an opportunity to see what they are up to online.

5. Set clear limits and rules

Right from a young age, set clear rules about device usage. For example, no devices after 7pm or no devices in their bedrooms. This helps limit usage and potential exposure to bullies at all hours. If they are younger, a rule could be that must share their password so you can regularly check through their messages. Explain they should only give their contact details to people they know.

6. Don’t respond to bullies

Explain to kids that if they receive a bullying message to not respond or engage with the person sending it. This can make the problem worse. Instead, they should save any messages as proof and show an adult. Talk to your child’s school if it involves another student to help resolve the issue.

7. Block/report bullies

Teach your kids how to use the features on their phone or on social media platforms that let them block or unfriend people. Make sure their privacy settings are up to date and secure. Also, teach them how to report online bullying or do it for them if they are too young. If you’re unsure, you can search how do it online. In 2015, the Harmful Digital Communications Act was introduced in New Zealand to prevent and reduce the impact of online bullying and harassment.

8. Don’t take away their devices

Don’t take their devices off them if they are being bullied because they will feel like they are being punished. They may also be getting support from friends that helps them deal with the situation.

9. Be a good role model

Set a good example for your kids by being kind online. If they see you acting responsibly and kindly then they are more likely to copy your behaviour and do the same.

Support

Where to get help

Netsafe provides free and confidential advice and help.

Learn more

  1. Online bullying: Advice for parents Netsafe, NZ 
  2. Online bullying Keep It Real Online, NZ 
  3. Online bullying – keeping kids safe Keep It Real Online, NZ