How to prevent cyberbullying: 2024 parental guide

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It’s no question that cyberbullying is a serious issue now more than ever. Here’s how you can keep an eye out for and prevent cyberbullying to keep your kids safe online. 

Would you know if your kids are being bullied online? 

No parent wants to find out their kid is being bullied (online or IRL). But not knowing can be even worse. That was the tragic reality for a Florida family whose teen took her own life after being cyberbullied by a group of “friends” who used a group chat to purposefully exclude her, talk behind her back, and reveal her deepest secrets. [*]. 

As digital devices are becoming more and more common for kids and teens, it’s easier for them to become exposed to cyberbullying at younger ages—and in greater numbers. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center [*]: 


In this guide, we’re going to break down how cyberbullying happens, walk you through some warning signs that may indicate your child is dealing with a cyberbully, and explain how you can help prevent this type of behavior so you can keep your kids and loved ones protected online.

What is cyberbullying, and how can you tell if your child is a victim? 

The simple answer is this: cyberbullying is a type of bullying that happens online and across digital devices. Cyberbullies target victims through text messages, social media platforms, and online games with a variety of malicious tactics like online harassment, harmful rumors, physical threats, and even leaking of private information and photos. 

According to, the effects of cyberbullying (as well as traditional bullying) on victims can surface as behavioral changes, health issues, and academic challenges [*]. The majority of victims report feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and powerlessness—which can lead to low self-esteem, mental health issues, and self-harm [*].

To make matters worse, many young people suffer in silence because they fear retaliation and experience feelings of humiliation and isolation. 

That’s why it’s so important for parents and guardians to be able to spot the warning signs of cyberbullying as early as possible. 

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • Sudden changes in how often your child uses devices. Many cyberbullying victims either avoid going online or spend even more time on online activities, reading comments, or trying to figure out who’s bullying them.
  • Anger, frustration, or anxiety when going online. Keep an eye out for changes in your kid’s online behavior or how they act immediately after being online. Listen and watch for signs of irritation, like slamming down or throwing electronic devices.
  • Deleting social media accounts or opening new ones. Sometimes, bullying forces victims to change the sites and apps they use or even alter how they present themselves online. Victims may close accounts altogether or start new ones with fake names that hide their identity. 
  • Spending more time alone than usual. While teens are notorious for locking themselves in their rooms, bullying causes victims to feel isolated and alone. If your child seems more withdrawn and less social than usual, it might be because of bullying. 
  • Unexpected mood swings, outbursts, or signs of depression. Again, a common “teen thing,” but sudden mood changes and bouts of depression (or other dips in mental health) could stem from the great pressure bullying can put on victims. 
  • Difficulty with sleeping and concentrating. Cyberbullying leads to anxiety and depression, both of which can cause sleep and concentration issues [*]. 
  • Health problems. In addition to depression and anxiety, bullying can also lead to stress and lack of appetite. This could have physical effects in the form of stomach aches, nausea, and headaches. Your child may also use health issues as an excuse to get out of going to school and other social events.

The bottom line: Cyberbullying can have lasting and damaging effects on your kids. It’s important that you recognize the signs of cyberbullying and step in quickly.

How to prevent cyberbullying and protect your kids.

Cyberbullying can have a major impact on your child's well-being. Here’s how you can prevent it from happening and limit its effects. 

1. Teach them about the “3 R’s” of bullying prevention.

Most of the time, cyberbullies rely on the anonymity of online platforms to harass victims without repercussions. When they hide, they can thrive from this freedom and the attention they get from their victims. Your child can neutralize a bully’s self-perceived power by following these three R's of bullying prevention [*]: 

  • Recognize: Talk to your child about the difference between actual cyberbullying, “joking around” with friends online, and other common conflicts. Help them understand and identify when someone has stepped over the line and ventured into more serious territory. 
  • Respond/Refuse: It's important to respond to bullies and not just stand by or ignore them. Teach your kids not to participate in or condone bullying behavior in any way—whether it’s happening to them, a sibling, or a friend. 
  • Report: Make sure your children know how and where to report bullying, beginning with you (parents or guardians) and educators. If needed, reporting can escalate to other school officials or law enforcement. 

2. Help your kids update their privacy settings on social media.

This may or may not come as a surprise, but nearly half of internet users aged 10-12 already use social media [*]. While these platforms play important roles in the lives of many children, social media also comes with some major privacy risks. By taking a beat, adjusting privacy settings, and laying out usage ground rules, parents can better manage their kids' social media community and interactions.

Here’s how to change the privacy settings on some of the most popular social media platforms for kids and teens: 


  • Make sure to set your child's account to private so that any unknown friend has to request to be approved or denied. You can also restrict content to “followers only.” 
  • Enable all digital well-being features to control your child’s screen time, content, etc.
  • Check out the rest of the TikTok parental controls.


  • Set your kids’ accounts to private so that only people they approve (with your permission) can view or interact with their content. 
  • You can check out all of Instagram's privacy settings here


  • Change your children’s settings to private, which will limit who can see their Snaps to only people that your kids know and follow. The same goes for people who can send them Snaps. 
  • Make sure you block and report inappropriate content or people who interact with your child. You can also read all of Snapchat’s community guidelines to help you understand the type of content that’s allowed. 
  • You can check out all of Snapchat’s privacy settings here.

3. Make sure your kids are using strong passwords.

Strong and complex passwords can stop bullies from accessing and misusing your child's online accounts. Parents should help kids create stronger passwords that avoid information a bully might be able to easily access like birthdays and names. 

A National Institute of Standards and Technology study found that children tend to share passwords to build friendships and trust [*], so it’s important to make sure your kids understand the necessity of password privacy. 

  • Teach them how to build strong passwords. Avoid common go-to’s, like using personal information, common phrases, and single words. Instead, combine words and mix in symbols and numbers to create alternate spellings. 
  • Keep an eye out for breaches. Check for password leaks and breaches from time to time. You can even download certain free apps to check your child’s email address to see if any passwords have been revealed. 
  • Use a password manager. A password manager can help you keep track of multiple passwords without having to remember them. These apps are also great for monitoring passwords and alerting you of any breaches or leaks. 

4. Use Safe Gaming tools to block cyberbullies on gaming platforms.

Nearly half of children aged 8-18 play a mobile or console game every day, and average daily play times exceed 1.5 hours [*]. 

While they’re gaming, kids might run into a few different types of bullying—like persistent trolling, harassment, gameplay sabotaging, and “griefing.” Since you can’t personally monitor your kid’s gaming all the time, here are a few things you can do: 

  • Manage security and parental controls within the console. Go into the console setting menus to enable communication and content filters. You can limit game time and ratings, manage friend requests, and restrict online communication. 
  • Set up account notifications. Certain online gaming platforms will also send you notifications whenever your child receives a direct message. You might also be able to see in-game messages or block them altogether.
  • Use a digital parental control or Safe Gaming service. Aura's parental controls allow you to set gaming limits and restrictions. Aura’s Safe Gaming feature also monitors voice and text messages from over 200 games on Windows PC, alerting you to any threats or cyberbullying messages sent or received.

5. Monitor and manage your kids’ internet usage.

No one expects you to hover over your kid’s shoulder and watch everything they do online. But the only way you can really protect them is if you know when they’re using the internet and what they’re using it for. Here are some “hacks” to consider. 

  • “Friend” or follow your kids on social media. This will allow you to get a notification any time they post something new, so you can review posts and discuss them with your child as necessary. 
  • Set online and game boundaries. If you think limiting your children's online usage will help keep them safe, think about setting a time limit. Internet browser family controls, like Google's Family Link [*], even let you block certain sites and functionalities. For gaming, try researching games together and choosing one that you're all comfortable with. 
  • Get a parental control plan. A parental control plan like Aura helps you monitor your kids' internet usage, block harmful sites and apps, and limit their screen time. Aura even offers additional online safety tools like AV and safe browsing

6. Organize a monthly “social media audit.”

With social media usage among young people skyrocketing, the topic of social media safety has risen to the top of the list for many families.  

According to a Pew Research Center study, 35% of teens say that they're on social media "almost constantly" [*]. While you can't watch your child's every move online, you might consider a regular social media audit. 

  • Discuss off-putting content. Go through your kids’ social media activities with them. Look for any posts that might be considered bullying behavior, and remove and report abuses. 
  • Watch histories. What your children do on social media can tell you a lot about their lives. Take a look at their online browser history. You can see YouTube history in My Google Activity. You can even order a TikTok history from its settings and privacy screen [*]. 
  • Review friend lists and privacy settings. Make sure your children’s privacy settings haven't been changed. You might also go through their friend lists to see who has access to their posted content. 
  • Block and report. Show your kids how to use social media's block and report features. Review with them what information is needed to report abusers and how to take note of it properly. 

7. Talk to your kids about online privacy.

Without online privacy, your kid's internet safety may be in serious danger. Nearly 18% of cyberbullying cases involved a bully pretending to be their victim online [*]. 

While cyberbullying happens to kids of all ages, it's even worse for adolescents and young adults [*]. Even though apps like Snapchat give the illusion of privacy, kids need to stay vigilant in protecting their information. Here’s how you can help. 

  • Practice good cyber hygiene. Talking about cyber hygiene with your kids will help them avoid costly mistakes online. Teach them to update their passwords regularly and make sure they know how to spot scams. You might also want to talk with them about the latest online threats so your family can stay ahead of the curve. 
  • Let them know what information they shouldn’t share. Social media posts can be so dangerous because even the most harmless details can be used against you. Cyberbullies use personal information to abuse their victims and misuse their accounts. Teach your kids about the consequences of sharing home addresses, passwords, Social Security numbers (SSNs), and banking information. 
  • Disable location sharing. To ensure that onlookers won't know your location, turn off location-sharing permissions on your social media accounts and devices. You should also consider monitoring your children's accounts to ensure that they don't geo-tag their photos or have others share their locations. 

8. Monitor the apps and sites that your children use.

When it comes to your kids’ internet safety, ignorance is anything but bliss. If you don't know about the apps and sites they use on their cell phones and digital devices, you can't protect them. For example, many of Discord's safety risks come from the platform sliding under the radar of parents and schools. 

  • Know what's popular. See what apps and sites your kids are using, then see what risks come with each one. Learn what content moderation and privacy controls are available, and try to find safer alternatives if possible.
  • Stay educated about trends and slang. This is more than just staying “hip.” Certain forms of cyberbullying might look innocent to the uninformed parent. For instance, bullies might use slang terms to camouflage abusive comments. They might also use peer pressure to force victims to take part in dangerous social media trends [*].

9. Keep an open dialogue.

We get it—talking about cyberbullying isn’t easy. Unfortunately, just 11% of bullied teens tell their parents [*]. This means it’s up to you to create a safe space to talk about bullying so that your kids feel comfortable talking to you if they’ve been targeted. 

  • Talk early and often. Give kids regular opportunities to talk, and you'll improve the chances of their mentioning cyberbullying if it does happen. 
  • Try different strategies. Talk about your own experiences with bullying, or bring up the topic by using a general or second-hand approach. 
  • Listen and stay open-minded. Let your kids speak freely and without interruption. Putting up any obstacles might give them a reason to stay silent. 
  • Engage with them. Playing with your kids and doing the things they want to do increases your chances of seeing bullying behavior in action. It also helps your child relate to you more easily and creates more opportunities to talk and share. 
Young teen staring at her phone

How (and where) to report cyberbullies.

If you notice the warning signs of bullying or your child has told you about an incident, you’ll want to act quickly to handle the problem. 

Before you start the reporting process laid out below, make sure your kids know they did the right thing by talking to a trusted adult. Make sure your kids feel safe, and then take the following steps. 

  • Gather your evidence before blocking. While your gut instinct might be to lash out at or block bullies, make sure you don’t give them a chance to cover their tracks. Instead, collect screenshots of conversations, images, videos, and anything else that builds the case for you and your child.
  • Block the bully and report their account to the platform. You can block the bully on each individual social networking site. Platforms like Facebook allow for temporary blocks and profile limitations—these are called "breaks" [*].
  • Report the bully online. You can report abusive content on some social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. You can also report abuse to your internet service provider if a bully violates the provider’s terms and conditions. 
  • Report the bully in person. After that, it's time to report the bully in person at your child's school or the bully's school. You might report the bully to a teacher, a school official, or a school administrator. 
  • If necessary, contact your local police. Consider reporting bullying to law enforcement if it involves threats of violence, unlawful invasion of privacy, and/or hate crimes. File a police report and keep records.

8 ways you can keep your entire family safe online.

Cyberbullies are among the top threats facing your family online. Bullies use various tactics to taunt their victims and can do serious damage to your child's online experience, health, and reputation. Take the following steps to protect your family online.

  1. Use complex passwords and 2FA. Your passwords are the first—and sometimes only—line of defense against hackers and malicious cyberbullies. Make sure everyone in your family uses strong passwords and enables two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever you can. For added security, use a password manager to store your passwords safely.
  2. Keep personal information private. Be cautious of sharing too much information online—including on social media profiles. Anything you post online can be found and potentially used against you and your family.
  3. Secure your Wi-Fi network. Hackers know how easy it is to hack Wi-Fi networks. Make sure you’ve secured your network by changing the default password and disabling the administrator mode. To be extra cautious, you could even use a virtual private network (VPN) while at home. (And always use a VPN when accessing the internet in public venues such as cafes, malls, hotels, and airports.) 
  4. Stick to secure websites and games. Official app stores (like Apple, Google, or Steam) ensure that you don’t accidentally download virus-laden software. 
  5. Ignore strange emails or texts. Scammers and bullies use fake messages to get you to click on links or engage with them. Teach your family members never to click on strange links—and to report these emails instead of responding to them. 
  6. Back up important data. If you're not careful, hacking and bullying can lead to data loss. Keeping backups ensures that you’ll always have a copy of your data should the worst happen. 

The bottom line: don’t let cyberbullies win! 

The effects of cyberbullying don’t just stay online. They have real-world consequences that follow kids wherever they go. This growing threat can happen to anyone, so it’s important that parents know how to spot and stop cyberbullying before it’s too late. Luckily for you (and your kids), you just got the deep dive on Fighting Cyberbullying 101! 

Over 50% of teens aged 13-17 have been victims of cyberbullying as of 2023.

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