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Cyberbullying

While technology can help people stay connected and informed, it can also create spaces for unsafe conversations and bullying behaviour that can cause real harm. 

Using cellphones, social media sites and online chat are really common ways for young people to build relationships, stay in touch with friends and work together. Talking to friends whenever they want can make young people feel included and safe.

Unfortunately, some people use these technologies to communicate in harmful ways: to hurt, embarrass, or harass others. Cyberbullying can happen in any digital space that a young person uses to communicate with their friends, and can be really harmful. People targeted by bullying behaviour online can feel like there's no escape.

Fortunately, there are ways to use technology safely.

Keeping an eye out

If someone is being bullied online or through text, you might notice:

  • Hurtful or threatening comments on their Facebook page or social media profile
  • They receive a lot of texts or messages and look sad or anxious when reading them
  • They become depressed, withdrawn or have low energy
  • They have trouble focusing or concentrating, or become easily distracted
  • They don't want to see or spend time with their friends

Healthy conversations

Bullying and harassment can be hard to talk about. Some people might be scared they’ll get in trouble or that their parents or caregivers will take their phone or internet access away. 

  • Let them know you understand this technology is important to them, and you only want to help them stay safe
  • Let them know they won’t get in trouble, and that it’s good they they’ve spoken up
  • Talk about how to stay safe online. This could include regularly changing passwords and not sharing them; not talking to people online who they don’t know; taking care about the kinds of words or images they post or send; and knowing how and when to block someone to stop them messaging you
  • Encourage them to do things outside of the online world that make them feel confident and happy
  • Encourage them to hang out with people who are caring, positive, and supportive

Taking action

Young people are often worried that if they say anything about cyberbullying, they will have their phone or internet access taken away. This can end up making them feel more isolated and they will be less likely to ask for help. Here are some other things you could do to help them stay safe:

  • Suggest they keep all evidence of bullying. Take screen shots, print or save text messages or online conversations. If someone threatens physical harm, this can be reported to the police
  • If people on certain websites are being hurtful, suggest they take a break from those sites for a while. Think of some other things they could do instead of being online
  • Make sure they know how to use technology safely, including how to update privacy settings, and make sure they keep their passwords secret
  • Show them how to block certain phone numbers or people on social media, or report pages or photos to the site 
  • Remind them not to reply or respond to messages that are hurtful or from people they don’t know
  • Remind them how easy it can be for anyone to access their information. Make sure they know not to put any information online they wouldn’t mind anyone seeing

Resources

Netsafe

Netsafe gives advice for young people, parents, and teachers about staying safe online.

Cyberbullying

Provided by Netsafe, this cyberbullying website contains guidance for young people, parents, caregivers, teachers and principals who want help to understand and deal with bullying that takes place in cyberspace.

The orb 

The orb has been developed by NetSafe to offer all New Zealanders a simple and secure way to report their concerns about online incidents.

Sticks'n'Stones

A student led project based in Central Otago for young people to promote positive action online and encourage everyone stand up to cyber bullying and raise awareness of its impact. Includes information for young people and parents, and a forum for shared discussion.

YOUTHLINE

Confidential Helpline: 0800 376 633

Youthline provides free phone, text, and email counselling support. Its website has information for youth dealing with challenging situations including information about bullying.

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