Anti -Bullying Week – Cyber bullying in lockdown

1 in 5 children between the ages of 10 to 15 have experienced some form of online bullying in the year to March 2020.  The Crime Survey for England and Wales data was collected before the coronavirus pandemic and so children’s isolation at home and increased time spent on the internet is likely to have had a substantial impact on the split between real world and cyber bullying.

Shockingly, more than half (52%) of those children who experienced online bullying behaviours said they would not describe these behaviours as bullying, and one in four (26%) did not report their experiences to anyone. 

There is no legal definition of bullying, but it is often described as behaviour that hurts someone else, physically or emotionally, and can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online.  In fact, nearly three out of four children (72%) who had experienced an online bullying behaviour experienced at least some of it at school or during school time (CSEW).

The scary thing about online or “cyber bullying” is that greater use of smartphones, social media, gaming and online networking applications means online bullying can follow a child anywhere they go. 

For many young people, the issue of bullying is seen as something that they have to deal with themselves. They feel adults are not going to take them seriously and will most likely make things worse. However, we know that bullying has enduring impact on children right through to their adult life and should be taken as seriously as other allegations of abuse or neglect.

Cyber bullying takes place over digital devices like mobile phones, computers, and tablets and it can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content.  Cyber bullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.  It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation.  Some cyber bullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behaviour.

The most common places where cyber bullying occurs are:

  • Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tik Tok
  • Text messaging and messaging apps on mobile or tablet devices
  • Instant messaging, direct messaging, and online chatting over the internet
  • Online forums, chat rooms, and message boards, such as Reddit
  • Email
  • Online gaming communities

Cyber bullying has unique concerns in that it can be:

Persistent – Digital devices offer an ability to immediately and continuously communicate 24 hours a day, so it can be difficult for children experiencing cyber bullying to find relief.

Permanent – Most information communicated electronically is permanent and public, if not reported and removed. A negative online reputation, including for those who bully, can impact school, employment, and other areas of life.

Hard to Notice – Because teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyber bullying taking place, it is harder to recognize.

Cyber bullying can have a huge impact of a person’s mental health and wellbeing, it can range from exclusionary tactics or treating the child as invisible.  Being called names, sworn at or insulted and having nasty messages about them sent to them were the two most common online bullying behaviour types, experienced by 10% of all children aged 10 to 15 years in the CSEW.

Some of the signs to look for regarding cyber bullying include:

  • Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting.
  • A child exhibits emotional responses (laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on their device.
  • The child may seem more anxious after receiving a text or social media posts.
  • A child hides their screen or device when others are near, and avoids discussion about what they are doing on their device.
  • Social media accounts are shut down or new ones appear.
  • A child starts to avoid social situations, even those that were enjoyed in the past.
  • A child becomes withdrawn or depressed, or loses interest in people and activities
  • They may have trouble sleeping or not wanting to go to school.

What can you do to help?

Speak with the child.  Note the below things that may help:

  • Don’t respond to and don’t forward cyber bullying messages.
  • Keep evidence of cyber bullying. Record the dates, times, and descriptions of instances when cyber bullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, emails, and text messages. Use this evidence to report cyber bullying to web and mobile phone service providers.
  • Block the person who is cyber bullying.

You may need support from school/ college.

You may need to report Cyber bullying to Online Service Providers.  Cyber bullying often violates the terms of service established by social media sites and internet service providers.

You may need to contact the police if it escalates.

When is cyber bullying a crime?

When cyber bullying involves these activities it is considered a crime and should be reported to the police:

  • Threats of violence
  • Child pornography or sending sexually explicit messages or photos
  • Taking a photo or video of someone in a place where he or she would expect privacy
  • Stalking and hate crimes

If you believe a child is in immediate danger:

Contact the police on 999 or 101. If the child is not in immediate danger but you are still concerned, or you or someone you know is experiencing bullying, you can contact:

the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or by emailing

Childline on 0800 1111 or your local child protection services.

Further information:

This brings me onto a very useful resource regarding Cyber bullying, the NSPCC in partnership with 02 have reviewed a number of popular social media and apps which is well worth a read, two which I would like to highlight are:

Wink which is where young people can meet friends online with people they don’t know! this is listed as a high risk for bullying.

YOLO lets users ask questions anonymously about stories posted on snapchat, again this is listed as a high risk to bullying along with HOOP.


For more information on how to identify bullying and intervene in schools/ colleges and resources to develop staff knowledge of safeguarding in learning environments, please contact us. For further help and advice click on the Netaware NSPCC link here: Net Aware

With the ongoing concerns about the spread of the Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) we have changed the way we work to ensure that we continue to deliver high quality safeguarding training courses.  Our ethos of “Doing the Right things to Do things Right” is being achieved via our distance learning courses and we offer video conferencing, interactive training and blended learning on a wide range of Safeguarding topics.  To find out more about the services and training courses delivered please visit our services >>  or contact us >>