Tween Talks: How To Talk To Your Kids About Cyberbullying, Whether They’re Doing It Or Falling Victim

We spoke to expert Tanya Goodin for practical, useful advice on tackling bullying for your tween-age kids...

Tween Talks

by Georiga Aspinall |
Published on

Welcome to Tween Talks, a new weekly franchise by Grazia’s parenting community, The Juggle (@TheJuggleUK on Instagram) where we speak to experts about tackling touchy subject with your tween-age kids. From sex and porn to social media and plastic surgery, we’ve got you covered…

The days when Mean Girls was our most complex insight into bullying are long gone, today’s kids face an entirely more toxic world where bullies can be anonymous trolls online, and they can be just as easily pulled into it as they are victims of it. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), in 2023 1 in 5 UK ten- to fifteen-year-olds experienced some form of cyberbullying.

Cyberbullying is not just about nasty messages, it can involve spreading rumours, tagging and sharing photos without consent, the subtle use of emojis, even being excluded from friendship message groups. And it’s much more widespread than you might think. The impact can be devastating, leading to anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases, even self-harm. So, it’s incredibly important to have a conversation about it with your kids.

But how do you do that? Digital wellbeing expert and campaigner Tanya Goodin, author of The Teenage Guide to Digital Wellbeing, breaks it down – whether your child is being bullied online, or doing the bullying…

How to start the conversation

The key is to keep it casual. Bring it up while doing something else like cooking dinner or on a drive together. Start by asking neutral questions such as, ‘Do you have any friends that have ever had a problem with online bullying?’ Discuss what good digital behaviour is. Explain that just as there are rules to follow about how we behave in real life, there are also rules online. Talk about the importance of treating others with kindness. Highlight that every message they send, every comment they post, and every picture they share can have a lasting impact.

If you find out your child is being bullied online

The most important thing is to stay calm, acknowledge their feelings and let them know you understand how tough it is.  Never trivialise it and emphasise that bullying is never about them. There’s nothing they have done to cause it, it’s always about the bully. Talk them through these five steps:

Ignore – Try hard not to respond to unpleasant messages or comments. Ignore them. This is easier if they delete them (see below). Get them to think of bullying like a fire that needs oxygen to keep burning; don’t fan the flames.

Delete – Delete any messages as soon as they can (but see ‘Report’). Remove themselves from the environment, log off from the app, and put down the device. Don’t read distressing messages over and over again.

Tell – Tell someone. It doesn’t have to be you but stress they mustn’t keep it to themselves. They must tell a friend, or someone else in their family and share what is happening. They can ask that person to keep it between the two of them, if that’s what they want.

Block – Use any blocking and muting features (these are different for each app and software, so make sure you investigate how they work, so you can help them) to remove access to their accounts from anyone who is persistently upsetting them. Tell them they don’t have to explain themselves if they do this.

Report – For persistent and serious threats to their safety and mental health, they need to know they should report to a trusted adult (this could be a teacher at their school or another relative). They may need to screenshot or keep any messages, so they could ask a friend or someone they trust to keep them, so them don’t have to read them again. They can also report harmful accounts or comments on the apps themselves.

If you find out your child is the one doing the bullying

It can be tough to discover it’s your child who is the bully, but it's important to address it just as calmly as the other way around. It’s natural to feel shocked but your child needs to know that you're there to help them, not just to admonish them. Sit down with them and discuss what’s been happening. Try to understand why they’ve been behaving this way. Sometimes, kids bully others because they’re dealing with their own issues, like stress or low self-esteem. You may need to seek professional help for them. Above all, help them understand how their actions affect others. Make it clear that bullying is unacceptable. Set clear consequences for any future incidents and keep a close eye on their future online interactions. This isn’t about invading their privacy, but about making sure they’re safe and respectful online.

Keep the conversation going

Remember, these conversations shouldn’t be one-offs. Keep the lines of communication open and check in with your child regularly about their online experiences. Reassure them that it’s okay to talk to you about anything they encounter online, good or bad. By staying informed and proactive, you can help your child navigate the digital world safely and respectfully. Cyberbullying is a testing issue for any parent, but with open communication you can make a real difference if your child encounters this particular challenge in their online life.

Here's some more cyberbullying resources to help support children

UK Safer Internet Centre

The UK Safer Internet Centre provides tips, advice, and resources to help children and young people stay safe online. They also have a helpline for professionals working with children, offering support on online safety issues, including cyberbullying. Helpline: 0344 381 4772

NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children)

The NSPCC offers advice and support for parents and children dealing with cyberbullying. They have a dedicated section on their website for online safety and cyberbullying. Helpline: 0808 800 5000


Childline provides a confidential helpline and online chat service for children and young people to discuss any issues they're facing, including cyberbullying. They also have an extensive library of resources on their website. Helpline: 0800 1111

Anti-Bullying Alliance

The Anti-Bullying Alliance works to stop bullying and create safe environments for children. They offer resources for parents, carers, and schools to address cyberbullying and other forms of bullying.

Internet Matters

Internet Matters provides resources and advice for parents to help keep their children safe online. They cover a wide range of topics, including cyberbullying, and offer practical guides on how to handle these issues.

The Diana Award Anti-Bullying Programme

The Diana Award offers an anti-bullying programme that includes resources, training, and support for young people, parents, and schools to tackle bullying, including cyberbullying.

About the expert: Tanya Goodin

Tanya is a bestselling author and campaigner on tech ethics and digital wellbeing. She founded the digital detox movement Time to Log Off and hosts the ‘It’s Complicated’ podcast. As an award-winning digital entrepreneur, Tanya spent two decades running one of Britain’s first digital businesses. Her new mission is to make today’s tech issues accessible to users and consumers, so they can consciously manage their digital lives.

 Tanya is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and is currently researching for a Masters in Artificial Intelligence (AI) ethics at the University of Cambridge. Tanya is a regular public speaker and media commentator – helping a global audience forge a healthier, happier relationship with digital devices.

Tanya’s book, The Teenage Guide to Digital Wellbeing (£12.99, Collins) available now.

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