Staying Safe

Cyber Bullying

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What do I do if my child is a target of cyber bullying – or a bully themselves?

Did you know 30% of New Zealand teens said they have been cyber bullied? Source

Bullying was once confined to the playground. In its digital form, cyber bullying can be carried out through social media, TXTs, websites or instant messaging, and can present itself in upsetting or threatening messages, rumours or embarrassing photos or videos posted online.

With 24/7 access to digital channels, the target can often feel there is no escape – which is why it’s really important to let your kids know they can always come to you if they either witness or experience bullying themselves.

7 ways to help your child if they’re being bullied:

  1. Let them share their concerns and what they want to happen.
  2. Take their concerns seriously, while trying to remain calm.
  3. Try not to attribute blame, even if your child has done something you advised them not to.
  4. If the bully is someone at school, talk to a teacher and find out what their anti-bullying policy is.
  5. Remain sensitive to your child’s feelings. So, for instance, don’t indefinitely ban their use of all internet-enabled devices.
  6. Resist the temptation to approach the bully yourself, even if it’s someone you or your child knows.
  7. Make a plan together, for example:
    1. advise them not to reply to the bully.
    2. help them to save emails or TXTs as evidence, take screen shots of websites, and contact their internet or mobile provider.
    3. remove the bully from their friends list, and set their social media profile to private.
    4. use the Report / Block options on social media sites or use Vodafone’s free Blacklist services to block certain numbers from TXTing or calling your child.

For teens, pictures speak louder than words

In a global survey commissioned by Vodafone, nearly half of teens said they’d struggle to find the right words to show empathy for friends experiencing cyberbullying. But, 3 out of 4 of them would use emojis to send a message of support – so we launched #BeStrong emojis to help. Kiwi teens chose the one you see here as a message they’d be willing to share.

Let them know they can download their emoji here. It’s also available through the Vodafone Message+ app on Android and iOS.

At what stage do we take the next step?

Our partners at NetSafe put it as clearly as possible: “Anyone threatening to physically hurt you or damage your property is breaking the law. If you feel like you are in immediate danger call 111 straight away.”
Beyond immediate threats, the Harmful Digital Communications Act outlines new criminal offences designed to help prevent and reduce the impact of such actions. As the NetSafe team says, “If you believe that you are the target of harmful or criminal behaviour online then it is vitally important that you collect evidence of the incident as soon as possible after you discover it. While it may seem like deleting the content is the quickest solution, by doing this you may take away any opportunity to have action carried out by the content host or a law enforcement agency.”

NetSafe is a great place to read more about cyberbullying and online harassment, mobile phone harassment, and help with gathering evidence .

What if your child is the bully?

Young people who have never bullied anyone could be drawn into cyber bullying because they think they are anonymous. They may do or say things they wouldn’t dream of doing face-to-face, because they’re hiding behind a screen. Or they might succumb to peer pressure and join in a conversation on a social media site without thinking of the consequences.

Like all bullies, cyber bullies rely on others to endorse their behaviour, join in or simply not challenge them. So if you think your child could be bullying someone:

  1. Talk to them openly about what they are doing and why it is unacceptable.
  2. Listen to what they say – they may genuinely not understand the effect they are having on someone else or that what they are doing is bullying.
  3. Try and understand the source of the bullying behaviour, but don’t let reasons become excuses.
  4. Tell them that you love them but that their behaviour must change.
  5. Make them aware of the legal details of the Harmful communications act to help them understand that there might be a legal implication from their behaviour.


Vodafone Blacklist helps protect your child from bullying by blocking certain numbers from calling or TXTing their mobile.
#BeStrong emoji Show your support and empathy for friends experiencing cyberbullying

Dave Atkinson with some great tips on talking to your teen about cyber-bulllying

Beat Bullying

  1. Talk to your child regularly about their online friendships as well as their offline friendships.
  2. Reassure them that they can come to you if they have any concerns about people being mean to them online.
  3. Bear in mind that what you, as an adult, might consider to be bullying might simply be seen as gossip or “drama” to your child – be sensitive to how they want to handle matters.
  4. Look out for behaviour changes that could be a sign that your son or daughter is being bullied or is bullying someone else. Look out for kids getting upset when online or TXTing, or for a reluctance to go to school.
  5. Make the most of tools like Parental Controls on your child’s computer, mobile and games console, privacy settings and ‘Report/Block’ options on social networking websites like Facebook.
  6. Get help. Find counsellors or other experts trained to deal with kids who have been bullied or have bullied others.

Further resources that can help you deal with cyber bullying

  • supported by Youthline, is a great reference for young people to find out how to stand up for themselves and others online.
  • – Tips to help those affected by bullying stand up for each other.
  • is NZ’s leading educational advocate for cyber-safety.
  • is a dedicated website providing cyber bullying resources for young people, parents and teachers.

Quick Tips

  1. Keep communicating: Do they understand the consequences of sending inappropriate images? Make sure they know nothing is guaranteed to stay private.
  2. Keep communicating: Has your child ever come across cyber bullying? Make sure they know they can talk to you.

In the news

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