Focus on Cyberbullying

Sarah Elliott is Haemophilia Outreach Worker – Northern, Haemophilia Foundation of New Zealand

This article is reprinted with permission from Bloodline, the magazine of Haemophilia Foundation New Zealand (, September 2014

Click here to read Dealing with bullying

These days, kids not only socialise in the physical world, but also in the virtual world. This has created what is now known as cyber-bullying. Cyberbullying is bullying that happens online. It can happen in an email, a text message, an online game or on a social networking site. It might involve rumours or images posted on someone’s profile or passed around for other people to see.

Cyberbullying takes many forms and some of these may be harder to deal with than others. Depending on the situation, some young people are able to sort it out quickly, or simply shrug it off. Other situations may be more serious. About 1 in 5 New Zealand high school students say they have been cyberbullied and many say it makes them feel scared, depressed, angry or ashamed.

Receiving nasty messages outside of school can make it feel hard to escape the bullying. Some people say it’s worse if you can't tell who the bullying messages are coming from.
Posting mean or nasty pictures or videos of people online can embarrass them in front of their school and spread quickly out of control. If you or your teen posts altered pictures of people online these can exist long after you delete them and can also be used as evidence by teachers and police.

What can you do to prevent cyberbullying?

  • Be careful who you give your mobile number to and don't pass on friends' numbers without asking them first.
  • Don’t respond to texts from people you don’t know. These can often be sent randomly to find people to bully.
  • Don't post revealing pictures of yourself or others online – they may get sent on and used to bully you or other people.
  • Keep your online identity safe – create strong passwords with a mix of lower and upper case letters and numbers. Pick difficult answers for your “secret question” on your accounts that people who know you wouldn’t easily guess and don't share your password with anyone – even your friends.

What if you or your child is being cyberbullied?

  • Tell people you trust – a good friend, a parent, or a teacher. They will want to help you stop the bullying quickly and safely. You can also report bullying to the police, even anonymously if this feels safer.
  • Do not reply to the people bullying you, especially to text messages from numbers you don't know.
  • Save evidence of all bullying messages and images. You can save messages on your phone and take screen shots of bullying on websites or IM chats. This may be used later if you report the bullying.

As a parent, educating your kids about cyberbullying is the first step to creating awareness around this important issue. Talk to your kids about the risk when being online. Start early and create an honest, open environment. Ask them to tell you if an online message makes them feel threatened or hurt. Keep an open channel of communication with your child, and hopefully he or she will come to you.

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