What To Do When… You’re concerned your child is being cyberbullied

Friend comforts young adult upset at phone

Studies indicate that 20-40% of children experience cyberbullying, with the prevalence higher for girls and LGBTQIA children. Children may be hesitant to talk to adults about the experience, due to embarrassment, worries about a lack of action or retaliation, or even a concern that their parent will take away their devices. It’s important to address your concerns with your child in a way that helps them to speak openly.

Ask your child about their experiences.

  • “I saw a piece on the news yesterday about cyberbullying. Is that something you’ve seen at school?”
  • “Do you know anyone who has been bullied or attacked by haters online?”
  • “I noticed that you seem pretty angry at your phone lately. Can we talk about what’s going on?”

Reassure your child.

Tell your child that you love and support them and that you want to help them to feel safe and secure at school and online.

  • “I know it makes you uncomfortable, but I’m asking these questions because I love you and I want to help you feel safe.”
  • “Telling me about this was really brave. How can we work together to address this?”
  • “Is there an adult at school who you trust? Let’s figure out how to be able to talk to them when you need to, so you can feel safe at school.”

Empower your child.

  • “You have a right to be treated with respect online, just like in regular life.”
  • “You haven’t done anything to deserve this treatment.”
  • “There are things we can do to help this behavior stop. I want to work with you to decide on a solution together.”
  • “This happens to a lot of people – more than half of kids your age report being cyberbullied.”

Take action to make your child safer.

  • “Let’s block the haters so they can’t send you any more messages.”
  • “I know how tempting it is to respond, but that will just make your bully feel more powerful. How about you text it to me instead? I promise you won’t get in trouble for the words you use — it’s important to be able to get those feelings out.”

Engage external supports.

  • “That social media company can help us to protect you from this online. Let’s look at their support site.”
  • “Even though it’s online, I need to let your school know this is happening. I’d like you to come with me to talk to the principal, so you can be a part of the conversation with her.”

“I think that we need to talk to the police about this situation, because you or someone else could be really hurt.”


Aboujaoude, E., Savage, M.W., Starcevic, V., & Salame, W.O. (2015). Cyberbullying: Review of an Old Problem Gone Viral. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 57(1), 10–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.04.011

Anti-Defamation League. (n.d.). Statistics on Bullying. https://www.adl.org/sites/default/files/documents/bullying-cyberbullying-statistics-overview-one-sheet.pdf

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). StopBullying.gov. https://www.stopbullying.gov/.

Wolke, D. & Lereya, S.T. (2015). Long-term effects of bullying. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 100, 879-885. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/archdischild-2014-306667