SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD IS BEING BULLIED ONLINE

Children are very good at hiding the signs of bullying; they feel ashamed at admitting to being a victim, and as bullying can often build up slowly, sometimes children are not fully aware of the situations they've found themselves in. According to the NSPCC, 38% of young people have been affected by cyberbullying. Luckily, there are lots of signs to look out for, along with a number of practical ways to prevent bullying and support your child.

Key signs of cyberbullying

  • * Spending long hours on the computer: bullies will often engage the child in long conversations or create "problems" the child feels they need to fix, such as countering gossip.
  • * Fear of leaving the house: The bullies may be making threats about offline behaviour, as most cyberbullies are people also known to us in real life.
  • * Trouble with sleeping / behavioural changes and mood swings: As many teenagers exhibit these changes, it can be difficult to know if they are the result of bullying. These are signs of depression, and as such, they are common to people being bullied.
  • * Falling behind with school work and making excuses to skip classes or avoid school completely can be a sign of stress and lack of confidence caused by bullying.
  • * Increased secrecy about their online activity.

What should you do if you suspect your child is being bullied online?

The first step is to talk to your child, which can be difficult as they will probably not want to open up to you. Try asking them in general terms about the happiest and saddest experiences they've had online and move the conversation on from there. Tracking their online activity is obviously the most efficient way to assess if anything unpleasant has taken place. You can use our computer internet monitoring tools to do this easily and effectively; they cover all aspects of internet access.

If you don't have these tools, check the privacy settings and the internet history. We highly recommend discussing with your child that you are monitoring their computer so they understand that their computer activity isn't strictly private.

If they understand that you are regularly looking over their shoulder, they will immediately feel safer and perhaps be more cautious. The same applies to your child's mobile phone. If they have a smartphone, they will be able to access a wealth of social networks and interactive applications. Our spy phone software for different models allows the discreet monitoring of the phone's usage remotely. Again, we recommend informing your child that the phone is regularly checked.

It is generally social networking sites where bullying takes place, so check Twitter, Facebook and the other sites your child logs into. All sites have codes of conduct to prevent bullying and trolling, but not all are very active in discouraging it from occurring.

In the first instance, block and report any aggressive and bullying users. It is also very important to educate your child about online bullying. We all know that adults don't always "play nicely" when they're online, hiding behind usernames and avatars. They act tough, but we know that this is often just an act. Share some of your funny stories about the silly people who bluster and boast online.

While bullying and threats can make us very unhappy and stressed when we're on the receiving end of them, in very few cases, is there a serious danger behind them? Please support your child by providing sympathy, but keep calm and reassure them turning this into a huge drama will not help.

If you have any concerns and require further advice, contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.