27 February 2024

For previous generations of young people, bullying was saved for face-to-face interactions. As traumatising as it always has been, most often or not, they could close their doors and step away from peer-led bullying, at least for a little while. But now sadly, that sanctuary is no more. Bullying has extended its reach to social media, and it has become extremely difficult to avoid, overrunning their physical and digital worlds. 

In a recent survey of 339 Llanishen High School parents, 26% said that their teenager had experienced bullying through social media and unsurprisingly, it’s a top concern for 20% of parents. With constantly changing behaviours – and platforms – it’s more important than ever to be aware of the risks and the warning signs to look out for. That’s what we’re focusing on today.

The forms of online bullying

Cyberbullying can come in many different forms. It includes nasty messages, posting unwanted things, hacking someone’s profile, spreading secrets or rumours, pretending to be someone else, or even posting private/ embarrassing photos of someone online. With the speed of social media today and the huge variety of social channels at their disposal, it can be hard to control the spread of messages, images, and videos shared online. This means that more people can see any unwanted content or pile on, which can be hugely overwhelming. So, it’s important to spot it and report it quickly.

Supporting your teenager

We appreciate that teenagers are not always forthcoming about their experiences. Especially if they’re dealing with bullying, they may feel difficult emotions – including shame and embarrassment – around this. This is why we weren’t surprised to see that 18% of parents are unsure of whether their teenager has experienced bullying through social media. Despite the challenges they may be facing, they may not initially want to talk about what they’re going through. But this is why it’s so important to create a safe, open dialogue where they feel they can come to you with any issues they might be facing, especially if you notice some warning signs. 

Here’s what you need to look out for:

  • Physical symptoms such as changes in appetite, problems sleeping, or complaining about headaches or stomach pains 
  • Behavioural changes like being unusually irritable, anxious, unhappy, teary or even angry
  • Avoiding social events they used to enjoy
  • Refusing to go to school or making excuses to skip school

Reporting online bullying and harassment 

As a school, we take bullying very seriously, whether it’s done online (using similar tactics to the examples we’ve mentioned above) or in person. We want everyone in our school to be treated equally and with respect so that school remains a place where your child can express themselves and feel included in a safe and happy environment. But bullying can only be dealt with and stopped if it is reported to us. 

So if your child has been affected by bullying by another member of the school community, or has been a witness to someone who has, here’s how it can be reported:

  • Report it to a class teacher, form teacher, Year Team Leader (YTL) or any other teacher
  • Report to a member of the Wellbeing Team. They can be found in the Wellbeing Centre at the bottom of the Mathematics block
  • Report to other school staff including the Youth Mentor, the attendance officer, the school counsellor, the reception staff or any of our teaching assistants
  • This can be done in person, by email, or by posting anonymously in one of the ‘Bully Boxes’ situated in each block of the school.

If you would like to access our Anti-Bullying policy, you can do so here >>>

Encourage a culture of kindness 

With so much time spent on social media and the high level of importance your teen attributes to their online world, it can be mentally tough if all they are seeing or experiencing is trolling, bullying, posts that incite hatred, or just general negativity. 

But kindness in these situations can never be overestimated and typically when just one person acts with kindness, others are likely to follow suit. We’d like to caveat this by saying that if your child is experiencing bullying, this would probably be the last thing on their mind – we understand you do need to be in the right headspace to act in this positive way – but it can be a good thing to introduce, especially within friendship groups. After all, there’s strength in numbers. 

If you want some examples of kindness on social media, here’s what that could look like:

  • Sharing positive messages through a post, comments or DMs
  • Being sensitive to others and their feelings before sharing
  • Using platforms for creativity and encouraging others to get involved too
  • Taking time before reacting to something negative
  • Showing compassion for others.

We offer more in-depth helpful tips and advice in our social media guide for parents. To download this, click here >>>