A parental guide to cyber bullying

 What is cyber bullying?

Cyber bullying – the process of using technology to bully. Bullying is purposeful, involves repeated acts and an imbalance of power. It may involve the sending of threats, the spreading of rumours, teasing, taunting, social exclusion, physical attacks and more. Cyber bullying is very similar to face-to-face bullying except, due to the nature of technology, it can be hard to get away from as it could occur via email, text, on a game, social network, app or any other digital medium.


Why do people cyber bully?

There are lots of reasons people bully. Sometimes bullies have been bullied before and know no different. Sometimes bullies are going through stressful situations themselves and take this stress out on others – they use it as a way of coping with what they’re going through. Some bullies report having difficult home lives and some report not having secure relationships with friends.

People may use the Internet to send abusive and hurtful messages as it’s an easy option and the distance involved means that they can’t see how much they’re hurting others. Some may bully as they perceive it to be fun.

No matter the reason, bullying is never OK. Harassment or threatening behaviour could be against the law.

How can I help prevent cyber bullying?

Help prevent cyber bullying by getting involved with what your children are doing online. Ask them who they’re chatting with and how, check that they understand that they are responsible for what they write online and ask them questions related to how they respond to threatening or upsetting messages.

Cyber bullying may be prevented if children chat with their friends only, are wary about communicating with strangers and block anyone who is starting to send them messages that worry them.

You may also find it beneficial to limit the amount of time your children spend online / spend using technology. Too much exposure to technology can damage real-life relationships.

How can I teach my child to respond positively to cyber bullying?

Children should learn to deal with online bullying by:

  • Not responding, as responses can fuel the fire
  • Reporting or flagging the messages, if possible
  • Saving the evidence – it will be useful later
  • Blocking the bully
  • Gaining support from a trusted adult: you, a teacher or even Childline if, for some reason, they can’t talk to someone face-to-face

I’ve found out that my child is being bullied – help!

Firstly, don’t panic. Keep calm and help reassure your child that you’ll do your best to help them. Tell your child that it’s not their fault. Don’t respond to the messages or retaliate as this can make things worse; instead, try to find out why the bullying occurred and what your child did in response. Praise them if they sought advice from an adult independently and didn’t reply to the messages.

Don’t remove their access to technology unless you feel that they are at risk. Removing their devices may seem like a quick win, but this act alone may stop them from talking to you in the future about similar situations as they will worry that they’ll lose their access again.

To solve the situation, and depending on what happened, you may wish to:

  • Contact the bully’s parents directly to discuss what happened and the steps to a resolution
  • Report the bullying to the service provider or company behind the app or website
  • Seek advice and support from your child’s school, particularly if the bullying has affected your child’s learning or behaviour at school
  • Seek advice from the police, particularly if the bullying continues or you can’t work out who’s sending the messages

Cyber bullying can have devastating consequences, so be sure to support your child after the incident. Talk to them lots, tell them again that it wasn’t their fault and go through the ‘How can I teach my child to respond positively to cyber bullying?’ steps above to help prevent future bullying. You may wish to get counselling for your child if the bullying has majorly affected their self-esteem.

What if my child is cyber bullying?

Finding out that your child has been bullying can be difficult. Firstly, take the situation seriously, but remain calm and composed. Make sure that your child understands the severity of their actions and that you won’t tolerate behaviour like this. It may be beneficial to ask your child how they would have felt if they had received the messages that were sent and about how this would have affected their self-image and confidence. Ask them to think about how they are going to apologise to their victim and show you that they aren’t going to repeat the behaviour. After this, it will probably benefit you to get more involved in your child’s online behaviour and to set some rules to help them be clear about their responsibilities when using technology.

As mentioned above, there’s often a cause for bullying, so you may want to talk to your child about any difficulties that they are facing. What caused them to bully? Are they struggling at school? Has someone been bullying them? You may find that your child’s bullying is a cry for help and that they need support with dealing with their emotions. You may also find that they’re low and need building up. If this is the case, spend time with them doing what they do well to help build their self-esteem or try new activities with them to find out what they’re good at. If you continue to worry about your child’s behaviour, speak to a doctor or a counsellor.

Remember that change takes time and that you need to lead by example.

Who can I talk to if I need further support?

Contact Family Lives on 0808 800 2222 if you’d like to talk to someone about bullying.

Questions children ask: friends posting your photos

‘Questions children ask’ is a series focusing on eSafety questions that children have asked us.

How do you stop your friends posting your photos?

The best way to do this is to make your friends aware that you don’t want photos of you appearing on the Internet; good friends will respect this.

If you ever find that someone has posted a photo of you online and you don’t want it there, you should talk to the person who posted it and ask them to remove it. Good friends will do this straight away. If the photo isn’t removed, you should contact the service it has been posted on and they might be able to remove it for you.

If someone’s bullying you by posting images or videos of you, contact the service they’ve been posted on and they should remove them for you. To do this on Instagram, click here.

Remember, there’s not much stopping people from re-posting or sharing images of you that are already online, so if you really want to keep your photos private, keep them off the Internet in the first place. Never post risky or inappropriate photos or videos of yourself online; they could easily be shared too and may lead to you being very embarrassed.

Questions children ask: Internet safety

‘Questions children ask’ is a series focusing on eSafety questions that children have asked us.

How do you know you’re safe on the Internet?

This is a good question as it’s sometimes difficult to know that you’re safe whilst online! Some people pretend to be people they’re not and some people try to trick others into doing things like giving away their passwords or personal information. Of course, most people online are well-meaning and really are who they say they are!

To help stay safe, remember these tips:

  • Only use websites and apps that are designed for people your age
  • If you come across a website that you’re unsure about or that contains pictures or videos that make you feel uncomfortable, close the window and tell an adult
  • Some websites contain information that is false (most don’t though!)
  • If a website is asking for information about you, check with a parent before you enter it
  • If you get lost on the Internet, ask for help
  • Avoid giving out lots of personal information to people you don’t know properly when chatting with them online
  • People online may not be who they say they are; think carefully before you chat with people you don’t know in person
  • Never send anyone risky or sexy photos or videos of yourself or go on webcam with strangers
  • Don’t reply to anyone who writes a mean comment about you; instead, block them and tell an adult


Sooner or later, children will learn that their passwords are the keys to their online lives. It’s imperative that they choose strong passwords in order to help protect their accounts.

Password chart

As well as this, children should be encouraged to:

  • Use different passwords for different accounts to help protect the rest of their information if one of their accounts is compromised
  • Use the strongest password on their email account as if this account is compromised, passwords for other services can easily be reset
  • Check the strength of their passwords by using How Secure Is My Password?
  • Not write their passwords down

Tips for reducing time with technology

Let’s face facts – technology can be addictive. If you’re worried about how much time a child of yours is spending in front of a screen, read our reducing time with technology tips below.

  • Reduce your own time with technology first – set the example
  • Acknowledge that disconnecting from devices/games can be hard
  • Start with small time reductions first; agree on daily time limits
  • Leave devices at home when going out
  • Set up a device-free space and/or time at home
  • Plan to watch TV or do activities together at regular times
  • Use parental control tools to restrict access if needed

How young people communicate – chat lingo

Whether it’s in a chat room, on email, via text, in a game or on any other communication platform, chat lingo and acronyms are used by people of all ages (but especially young people) to save time and chat secretly. Here are a few of the most common lingo uses.

This list is not exhaustive.

ADDY – address
AFAIK – as far as I know
AFC – away from keyboard
AML – all my love
ASL – age, sex, location
ASLP – age, sex, location, picture
B4N – bye for now
BAK – back at keyboard
BBS – be back soon
BC – because
BF – boyfriend
BFN – bye for now
BRB – be right back
BTW – by the way
B& – banned
CD9 – code 9 – parents are around
CU – see you
CUL – see you later
CWYL – chat with you later
CYO – see you online
DL – download (can also mean ‘dead link’)
DLTBBB – don’t let the bed bugs bite
DND – do not disturb
EOD – end of discussion
F2F – face to face
F2P – free to play
FOAF – friend of a friend
FYEO – for your eyes only
GF – girlfriend
GG – good game
GNBLFY – got nothing but love for you
GN – good night
GNOC – get naked on cam
GTG – got to go
H – hug
H&K – hugs and kisses
HB – hug back
HSWM – have sex with me
IDC – I don’t care
ILU – I love you
IRL – in real life
IWALY – I will always love you
K – OK (can also mean ‘kiss’)
KB – kiss back
KPC – keeping parents clueless
L8R – later
LOL – laugh out loud (can also mean ‘lots of love’)
LY – love ya
MB – maybe
MYOB – mind your own business
M8 – mate
N1 – nice one
NIFOC – nude in front of computer
NP – no problem
OLL – on-line love
OMG – oh my god / gosh / goodness
PAW – parents are watching
PLZ – please
PM – private message
POS – parents over shoulder
POTS – parents over the shoulder
QT – cutie
ROFL – rolling on the floor laughing
S2R – send to receive
SYS – see you soon
THNX – thanks
TOY – thinking of you
TTYL – talk to you later
TU – thank you
UR – your
WB – welcome back
WTGP – want to go private?
WU – what’s up?
WUF – where you from?
WUU2 – what you up to?
WYCM – will you call me?
YOYO – you’re on your own
143 – I love you
4U – for you
5sx – sex
*H* – hug
*S* – smile

Questions children ask: playing games

‘Questions children ask’ is a series focusing on eSafety questions that children have asked us.

Is it safe to play games?

Games are great; millions, if not billions of people play games every day. Games can be safe to play, but like a lot of things, they can also be unsafe. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy games safely:

  • Look at a game’s rating and play games that are designed for your age range. Games that are designed for players older than you may contain pictures, words and themes that are not appropriate for you. Most games that come in boxes are rated with one of the following:


  • Understand game descriptors – these are usually found on a game’s box and are useful as they tell you what to expect in a game.


Bad language: contains bad language
Drugs: refers to drug use
Fear: may be frightening, particularly to younger players
Gambling: encourages or teaches gambling
Sex: contains sexual behaviour
Discrimination: may contain racism, sexism etc.
Violence: contains violence
Online: can be played online


  • Games downloaded directly on to devices may not come with symbols like the ones above, but they usually come with a recommended age, e.g. 4+, 9+, 12+. Sticking to these age ratings will help you game safely.


  • Remember that, if playing online games with strangers, people may not always be who they say they are. Some people pretend to be other people whilst using the Internet and they can be very good at it. You may also find that, if you’re playing games with strangers, they use language that is not appropriate. Learn how to block or mute people who make you feel uncomfortable and never give strangers your personal information or agree to meet them in the real world without taking a trusted adult with you. If you are being bullied whilst playing an online game, talk to an adult or speak to Childline.
  • Don’t spend money on games without a parent’s/carer’s permission unless it’s your money to spend. Some games contain extra charges for add-ons; try to stop and think for a few seconds before you buy things.

Questions children ask: strangers

‘Questions children ask’ is a new series focusing on eSafety questions that children have asked us. Here’s the first:

How can you find out who people really are if you think they are not who they say they are?

It’s sometimes very difficult to tell who is who online. Although most people really are who they say they are, some people pretend to be other people whilst using the Internet and they can be very good at it. You may not be able to find out exactly who someone is based on what they tell you, even if they use a webcam or send you photos. It’s risky to talk to people if you think they are lying to you; ask yourself – why might they be lying? Might they be trying to trick you? Why are they pretending to be someone else?

It’s always best to talk to an adult if you are unsure about things that people say on the Internet.

How to talk to children about what they are doing online

Let’s face it – talking to young people about what they do sometimes leads to very little! Here are some talking prompts for you to use to help you find out and understand more about how your children use online services.

  • What do you like doing on the Internet?
  • Tell me about this app / website – what does it do and how does it work?
  • What apps and websites are all of your friends using?
  • Show me what you’ve made using the Internet
  • How do you keep safe online?
  • Do you ever talk to strangers online? What do they say? What would you do if they used words or showed you pictures that made you feel uncomfortable?
  • How do you keep your personal information private? Show me your profile/s.
  • What would you do if you needed help whilst using the Internet?