Lockdowns and online learning ‘may have exacerbated cyberbullying’

While lockdowns provided a respite from bullying for many children for some the taunting moved online, analysis by the NSPCC has shown.

Cyberbullying is the act of harassing someone online, including sending threatening messages, sharing videos without consent, making prejudiced comments and doxxing.

Helen Westerman, NSPCC Service Head of Local campaigns and Childline spokesperson, says lockdowns and online learning may have exacerbated the issue.

“Children may have been bullied face-to-face, prior to the lockdown. That moved online,” she says.

“So the fact that they were at home and it was online made it even more inescapable.

“They were spending more time online, doing work, perhaps keeping in touch with their family, staying entertained. And so we’re on tech all the time, and if you’re being bullied, that’s pretty horrific.

“We know that it can happen to any child at any time really. There’s no blueprint for bullying, so anyone can get bullied.”

Cyberbullying has been a huge issue before the pandemic.

A survey of 11-25 year olds in 2017 found that 68% had experienced cyberbullying in the previous year, according to YoungMinds.

Helen emphasizes that cyberbullying needs to be taken more seriously.

“If there’s not a culture of taking this seriously, and seeing it equal to face-to-face bullying, or other forms of abuse, then actually that’s really difficult for the person that’s experiencing it.”

emma’s story

I first called Childline when I was 14. I was happy up until then and I really enjoyed learning.

Everything started to fall apart after I had an argument with a friend at school over something silly.

We’d talked about it and I thought we’d sorted things out.

But not long after I was told that she had set up a Facebook group about me entitled ‘we wish Emma was dead’.

I didn’t believe it at first and when I realized it was true I was shocked and I broke down.

I had been bullied face to face before but this was on a much bigger scale as the Facebook group was shared so that everyone could see it.

Lots of people added their own horrible comments too. In the end we had to ask the school to make the girl take the Facebook group down in front of the Head teacher because she refused to do it when we asked her to.

She was meant to be one of my best friends so for her to stab me in the back in such a public way was devastating.

“I had been bullied face to face before but this was on a much bigger scale”


Burton Mail)

I was so upset that I cut myself off from my family and I didn’t want to talk to anyone anymore.

I dreaded going to school because I’d see the bullies there too and they would often follow me home. It completely took over my life.

By this point I’d become so low that I felt suicidal. I just didn’t want to be around anymore because things were so hard – when I told my mum that, it really scared her.

My parents didn’t know how to help me but my mum encouraged me to talk to Childline – she told me that they were confidential so I got in touch using their 1 to 1 chat service, which felt easier than talking to someone over the phone .

ChildLine gave me someone to talk to who could support me and didn’t judge me.

The counselors were really nice and they seemed genuinely interested in me.

Childline helped me to come to terms with the fact that I was feeling suicidal which allowed me to start dealing with it.

They gave me advice on how I could get through things, and encouraged me to try and find the light at the end of the tunnel.

I was able to go at my own pace and they didn’t push me to talk about things before I was ready.

They showed me that some good could come from my experiences, and told me that I could grow as a person because of it.

I spoke to them on a number of occasions and it was good to be able to go back to them when I needed to talk.

“I dreaded going to school because I’d see the bullies there too and they would often follow me home. It completely took over my life.”



The counselors encouraged me to speak to my parents about feeling suicidal, which I did.

Opening up to my family allowed them to better understand how they could support me. From that moment, my mum and dad helped me to build myself up again.

My family really rallied around me and it brought us closer together.

They encouraged me to start volunteering for the cadets which helped me to make new friends away from what had happened. It gave me something to focus on.

My advice to young people who are feeling suicidal is to tell someone.

Talk to Childline – they were a friend to me and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today. I might never have told my family what was happening and I would have struggled to get through things.

It was a horrible experience but it’s helped me to learn that I can be strong and not let people get to me. It’s made me want to push myself and get to where I am today.

I’ve come such a long way I’m now training to be a police officer.

*This is a true story but names have been changed to protect identities of those involved

Dealing with cyberbullying – advice from the NSPCC

Children are spending more time online as a result of lockdowns and online learning



Schools should ensure they have trusted adults in place for children to talk to if they are being bullied.

Children can also contact Childline to talk to someone anonymously.

Parents should be there for their children, take their concerns seriously and let them know that they are available to talk.

Helen advises parents to remove emotion from the situation as much as possible when confronted with cyberbullying.

“We’ve noticed that it’s really helpful if the child does come forward and does disclose to their parent that they’re experiencing cyberbullying, that the parent tries to keep their emotion out of their response initially.”

She advises parents against demanding “that the child hands over their phone or stops going on that particular site because we know from children that actually that prevents them maybe from next time talking about what’s happening to them because they’re concerned about their tech being taken away.”


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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