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One quarter of UK children say cyberbullying gets worse during lockdown

One quarter of UK children say cyberbullying gets worse during lockdown

At least two million British children experience online bullying each year, with more than a quarter of them finding it to be worse during lockdowns compared to when schools are open, according to our new research.

With more time spent at home than usual, children are unsupervised for more than half of their time online, browsing the internet alone for 17 hours out of their 30 hours online each week, according to parents. And for kids that experience online bullying, almost half don’t tell their parents about it, and up to one eighth (12%) don’t tell anyone at all.

Our survey, conducted in January 2021 with the charity Family Lives, shows a problem not just with the amount of cyberbullying that takes place amongst young people, but also with how many children aren’t comfortable with sharing their experiences or asking for support from their parents.

Social media is by far the most common space for online bullying, with over 50% of children saying it’s where the worst of it happens. Almost 40% of schoolchildren who have been bullied said that lies or rumours about them had been shared online and more than a quarter have had images or videos of them posted online without their consent. Image and video-based bullying in particular has seen a 48% rise in the past twelve months, a time period where children’s usage of popular video-sharing app TikTok increased by 15%.

The research also found that nearly two-thirds of parents worry about what their child might be looking at online, and over a third of them report that they are too busy working to be able to watch over what their child is doing.

Advice for parents

There are many ways you can monitor and restrict what your child does online without having to constantly supervise their activity. Here are three steps you can take to ensure your child stays safe online and avoids cyberbullies on social media:

  • Link your child’s account to yours: This will let you monitor what your child does online, including the apps they use and the content they see.
  • Set parental controls on your Wi-Fi: Parental controls on your home broadband are a quick, easy way to block inappropriate or harmful content while your child uses the internet. Find out how to set them up with our guide.
  • Turn on parental locks: Most internet-connected devices also offer parental locks on specific apps or limits to screen time in their settings. Take a look at the options on your child’s device.

Family Lives’ Deputy CEO, Pamela Park, says:

“It has been a very difficult year for children with their education interrupted and long periods separated from their friends, so it's awful to hear that many say cyberbullying has got worse.

“Any form of bullying is difficult and upsetting for children to deal with, but with cyberbullying it can feel like there is no escape, as it follows kids around through their mobile.

“We encourage parents and teachers to talk to children about online bullying, ensuring they know how to protect themselves on the internet, what to look out for and most importantly what to do if they are a victim of this or see someone else being bullied.

“If you or your child are struggling to deal with any form of bullying, our helpline is always available for advice at 0808 800 2222.”

If your child is currently learning from home, there are a number of ways you can help them through the day without putting too much pressure on your own daily responsibilities. See our guide to remote schooling for tips on helping your child attend their classes while schools remain shut.

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