Preventing and responding to cyberbullying. Image of mother comforting pre-teen daughter on the couch as daughter looks upset at phone. NCA graphical shapes overlay the image.


What cyberbullying is

Cyberbullying is a pattern of purposely harmful behavior targeting an individual and using technology to harass, threaten, or humiliate that individual repeatedly. It often affects kids, and can like many other adverse childhood experiences lead to trauma symptoms, which left unchecked can contribute to physical and mental health problems down the road. In short, it’s not just teasing.

How common is cyberbullying?

Extremely. Researchers at the Cyberbullying Research Center put the number at just under half of kids who’ve been cyberbullied ever, and, and a staggering 1-in-4 kids having experienced cyberbullying in the last 30 days. The Center’s 2021 study of a nationally representative sample of 2,500 US middle and high school students, found that 45.5% said they had been cyberbullied in their lifetime, and 23.2% indicated they had been cyberbullied within the last 30 days.[i]

How is cyberbullying different from offline bullying?

The use of technology (such as social media, livestreaming, online communities, private messages, gaming platforms, and metaverse environments) to amplify the effects, intensity, and pervasiveness of the attacks is the distinguishing feature from bullying that today’s parents might have experienced as children.

Because children and youth use technology in some form throughout their waking hours, cyberbullying can create a pervasively miserable environment for a child/youth who is a target.  This is especially true if the cyberbullying originated in or spills over into the child/youth’s offline life (through school, club sports, faith community, or wider social circle).

What are the potential negative effects of cyberbullying?

Children and youth can experience sadness and depression, anxiety, inability to focus at school and therefore academic performance issues, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.[ii]


What you can do about cyberbullying

Learn more about cyberbullying through the resources on this page. Start a conversation with your child about cyberbullying. If you discover your child is being cyberbullying or participating in cyberbullying others, take action.

What are the signs of cyberbullying?

These aren’t the only signs a child is involved in cyberbullying, but these are some common ones:

  1. Changes in school performance.
  2. Changes in behavior.
  3. Notable changes in online platforms and devices. (For example, if they suddenly start communicating much more often through a new app they’ve never used before, stop using a platform they used all the time very recently, or suddenly appear to be using new or unknown devices, that’s a notable change.)
  4. Hiding or being unusually secretive about online activities. 
  5. Becoming withdrawn or depressed. 
  6. Avoiding individuals or social situations the child previously enjoyed. 

These signs don’t always point to cyberbullying, but they definitely point to a conversation you should have with your child to find out what’s wrong.

How can I start a conversation with my kid about cyberbullying?

Start from a place of care, safety, and support. In case the topic doesn’t naturally come up, here are a couple of example conversation starters:

Asian mother helping her son doing your homework at home with smile face together.

“I read an article today about a kid that was cyberbullied, and it made me wonder. Has that ever happened to you or one of your friends?”

Happy gay family smiling and using mobile phone while sitting on couch at home

"Today I attended a lunch where we were talking about kids being bullied online.  I’m wondering, have you ever felt that way?”

What can I do to prevent cyberbullying?

  • Talk to your child about family rules and expectations for online behavior. Don’t assume your child wouldn’t cyberbully another. In the aforementioned study, 14.4% of middle and high school students reporting cyberbullying others in their lifetime, and approximately 5% reported doing so in the prior 30 days. And, in a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 tweens (9-12 year olds) 3.2% admitted to cyberbullying others.[iii]
  • Consider a parent/child tech agreement. [iv] This can be helpful not only in outlining expectations but in understanding that technology use is a privilege with consequences for misuse.
  • Keep in mind that many cyberbullying and online exploitation episodes happen right after school is out and before parents get home and at bedtime. Reducing the opportunity for excessive screen time after-school and at bedtime can reduce the opportunity for your child to be cyberbullied or cyberbullying others.
  • Don’t assume that someone is teaching your child about cyberbullying. Raise the subject directly with your child.
  • Use teachable moments (ie. your child discussing what happened with a friend or something in the news) to reinforce the message that you are a resource for your child and they can tell you anything—even things that might be upsetting—and you will help them. Viewing a parent as a resource is a protective factor for many risks, including cyberbullying.
  • Take note of changes in behavior or school performance that may signal there could be a problem, including the common signs above.
  • Teach resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back after adversity.  It’s an important protective factor to develop as it will be needed over the lifespan for many types of adversities.  In the case of cyberbullying, the ability to ignore, deflect, and move past hurtful comments is an ever increasingly important skill in an online environment.

What should I do if my child is being cyberbullied?

  • First and foremost, make sure your child feels supported and safe.
  • Be clear that you—like your child—want the cyberbullying to stop and listen to their ideas of what might help. Kids are naturally afraid that their parents may take actions that would make it worse.  Acknowledge that fear, as you come up with a plan together to address it.
  • Encourage your child not to engage with cyberbully. Do not engage directly yourself.
  • Save all evidence of the cyberbullying (screenshots, etc.).
  • Often, talking with the parent of the cyberbully will be enough to curtail the behavior.
  • If the cyberbullying originated at school or spills over into it, it is within the school’s authority to intervene. And, as a parent, you can meet with the school to request this.
  • Online platforms and social media have mechanisms to report harmful behavior on their sites. Familiarize yourself  with those on the platforms and sites your children/youth use most and use this reporting function as needed.  Of course, you and your child can also block individuals as well.[v]
  • If the cyberbullying veers into criminal behavior such as online exploitation, sextortion, or child sexual abuse images (CSAM), report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline at for law enforcement investigation.
  • If your child remains withdrawn, anxious, or depressed, seek professional mental healthcare for them. 


Further cyberbullying resources

For parents and caregivers

For families

For children and teens

How to report cyberbullying

How to report sextortion or child sexual abuse images


[i] Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2022) Cyberbullying Identification, Prevention, and Response.  Cyberbullying Research Center

[ii] Salmivalli, C. (2010). “Bullying and the peer group: A review.” Aggression and Violent Behavior, 15, 112-120. doi: 10.1016/j.avb.2009.08.007. 9. Kärnä, A., Voeten, M., Poskiparta, E., S

[iii] Patchin, Justin & Hinduja, Sameer. (2021). Cyberbullying Among Tweens in the United States: Prevalence, Impact, and Helping Behaviors. The Journal of Early Adolescence. 42. 027243162110367. 10.1177/02724316211036740.

[iv] Samples may be found on, and other internet safety programs.

[v] Cyberbullying Unplugged (2019) National Center for Missing and Exploited Children


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