CHILDLINE ADVICE: Out of class means there’s no escape from the online bullies
As the summer holidays bring joy to most children, for others, not being in the classroom after school breaks up means they no longer have a place to avoid bullies.
The way our children communicate has changed, more so since the start of the pandemic as we’ve all spent a lot more time online. It can still be difficult for parents to understand how issues like bullying have changed.
Where bullying once ended with the ringing of the school bell, the online world now means abusive messages can be shared around the clock.
For some children, their time in class is the only time they may feel able to get away from bullies targeting them online.
Those children might dread the long summer holidays, as they sit in fear of the next alert on their phone. It feels like the bullies can reach them anywhere.
In the first six months of the pandemic alone, our Childline service saw an average 70% monthly increase in counselling sessions related to cyberbullying, including threatening or abusive texts, being pressured to send sexual images or engage in sexual conversations, and being excluded by friends online.
Signs your child is being bullied online could include becoming anxious or angry if you go near their device, becoming withdrawn, difficulty sleeping or eating, having out of character outbursts and spending more or less time online than normal.
If you have concerns, the first step is to talk to them. Ask what’s worrying them, try not to overwhelm them with questions. Most importantly, reassure them you’ll always support them and remind them it’s not their fault this is happening.
Explore how to report and block people online, and if they’ve had a negative online experience don’t take away their device. Instead, suggest they take time away from the offending app or try another online activity.
If they can’t or don’t want to speak to you, let them know Childline is here for them, and there are chat rooms and message boards at www.childline.org.uk which could help
Adults can get more support by phoning the NSPCC helpline on 0808 8005000, and there’s lots of information at www.nspcc.org.uk and at www.net-aware.org.uk - our partnership site with O2.