Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is cyberbullying different from other forms of bullying?

Cyberbullying is one form of bullying but because it utilises digital communication e.g. being online or mobile phones it can occur any time anywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • If your child is bullied at school, home becomes a safe haven where your child has no contact with the bullies, but with cyberbullying it can invade a young person’s personal space making them feel threatened, even at home. They feel there is nowhere to hide.
  • It is possible to cyberbully anonymously. The bully might for example set up dummy accounts to hide their name or username, or they might hide their Internet Protocol (IP) address, or block (withhold) their mobile number.
  • When other forms of bullying occur it is usually one person or a small group of people. Cyberbullying on the other hand involves lots more people who can be reached very quickly by message or posts online – the victim might feel that people were ganging up on them.
  • Cyberbullying can be more long term than other forms of bullying as once the information is on the net it is impossible to retract it and the victim has no control on where it goes or who sees it.
  • It can be unintentional as people may not consider the consequences of sending messages or images.


2. I use the computer very rarely, but my child spends a lot of time on it. I worry about this, what can I do?

To provide you with background information and enable you to make the most of being online and to improve your knowledge and understanding of online opportunities you could enrol in an evening class in your area or alternatively complete a BBC webwise course online at

Whatever your child is doing online you need to talk to them and allay your concerns and this will help you to develop a greater understanding of your child’s interests and a better understanding of online activities. Ask them to tell you what they are doing online.

  • What sites are you using?
  • What can you do on that site?
  • What do you enjoy about that site?
  • Who do you talk to?
  • Is this a site you use at school?


3. Why are some people cyberbullies?

There is no straightforward answer. There may be several reasons for why some people choose to cause distress to others by bullying them:

  • some cyberbullies think that as they cannot be seen, they won’t get caught
  • often the people, who cyberbully are envious of, annoyed or want to have revenge on someone
  • cyberbullies think that these actions improve their image. They believe that if they get other people to laugh at someone else it makes them look cool or increases their popularity
  • some cyberbullies perceive it as a form of entertainment particularly if they are bored and have too much time on their hands
  • for a laugh or just to get a reaction.


4. What is sexting?

Sexting is posting online or sending sexual messages or naked or semi-naked photos/video clips by means of any digital device.

If your child stores the image or is already in possession of indecent images this is a serious offence.

Sometimes young people who are more susceptible to peer pressure might be encouraged to take photos of themselves naked or film themselves doing things they may not be happy about others seeing.

Once these images have been taken and sent to others, the originator loses control of them and they can appear anywhere and be seen by anyone. They could even end up on YouTube and other similar sites, watched by thousands.

Sexting is illegal in the UK and a prosecutable offence if the images/videos are of anyone below 18.

If a young person over 18 years of age is involved in sexting they may commit an offence under the Obscene Publications Act (1964).


5. What advice can I offer my child to safeguard them when using the Internet?

Here are some basic rules you should encourage your child to follow, when using the Internet.

  • Not to use their real name as a username in a chat room, on their instant messenger account or as part of their email address.
  • Not to use a photo of themselves as an avatar on a discussion forum.
  • Report anything that they read, see or receive online that makes them feel uncomfortable to you as a parent or carer, or someone else they trust. If they have been receiving inappropriate sexual messages/ content, they can report this to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP):
  • Your child could also speak to someone at ChildLine.


6. My child is 12 and wants to open a Facebook account, should I let her?

Actually Facebook and several other social networking sites stipulate that users need to be 13 and over in order to set-up an account. However, many children sign up to Facebook by claiming they are older than they are. It is often difficult to stop a child from registering, and if they do, they might go behind your back. If you do succumb to the idea it would be better to be involved by helping your child to register so they don’t give any personal information. Set up the privacy settings as ‘friends only’ and ensure the friends are ones they know in the real world. Limit adult friends to just family. Finally don’t allow your child to be older than 13 as Facebook have separate security settings in place for younger users. Discuss with them what could go wrong e.g. bullying etc. and encourage them to tell you if something on the site makes them unhappy and how to report it on the site.


7. What should I do if my child is being cyberbullied?

  • Make sure your child is aware of cyberbullying.
  • Explain to your child that cyberbullying is very serious and no one has the right to make them feel that way. Get them to talk about it as talking it through helps.
  • Be aware of your child’s Internet activity.
  • Try to understand the digital communications your child uses. Consider joining a local evening class.
  • Advise your child:
    • to show you any abusive messages they receive
    • never to reply to an abusive message – it makes the situation worse.
  • Talk to staff at your child’s school if other pupils are involved.
  • Keep a copy of any abusive texts emails, comments messages they receive and record the date and time they were sent. With cyberbullying there is always a trail.
  • Contact the service provider or block the cyberbully.
  • If your child wants further support they can always talk to ChildLine on 0800 1111 or one-to-one chat.


    8. I have come across a malicious website that’s only purpose appears to be to cause abuse. What can I do about it?

    Contact the Police. The Police can try to close the site down and find the person responsible. All emails and websites contain a trace that can identify the computer that was used to create them, called an Internet Protocol address (IP address), so it is almost impossible for the culprit to stay anonymous.


    9. How can I encourage my child not to be involved in cyberbullying?

    Talk to your child about the emotional stress for the victim caused by cyberbullying. Advise them that they should treat others as they would like to be treated themselves, whether on or offline. If they wouldn’t say it in person, they shouldn’t say it online. If they are aware of anybody being cyberbullied they should:

    • refuse to forward cyberbullying messages or pictures or insults about a person as this can be really upsetting for the person involved
    • be aware that to look at or forward these messages, pictures or insults means they are contributing to cyberbullying and may be committing a crime
    • tell friends to stop cyberbullying
    • block communication with the cyberbullies
    • report it. It is their duty e.g. to a trusted adult or use the report button on the specific site or the CEOP report abuse button.