Primary school-aged children are very connected to the digital world; it is becoming more common for children in this age group to use multiple internet-enabled devices including phones, iPads, iPods and game consoles. There is also a significant increase in ownership of mobile phones by children, and a rise in the number of children utilising technology away from parent supervision.

For most children, the experience of being online is positive; it is an exciting time with greater potential to connect, communicate and create. Social media can support children to connect with family and friends, as entertainment and resources for education.

Teaching children about safe online use, and encouraging open communication supports children to seek help if their online experiences become negative. Health and community professionals can work with families, schools and early childhood services to identify children who might be affected by cyberbullying. Health and community professionals can also provide support in building children’s resilience and coping skills. Children who display resilience are more likely to engage in the online world in a positive way, and coping skills support children to identify potential issues and seek help from trusted adults.

There are times, however, when online use can have negative impacts on children’s health and wellbeing. Cyberbullying is one of the risks of increased online use, in particular for children. Cyberbullying refers to bullying behaviour that occurs using technological devices.

Cyberbullying can involve:

  • people using your details to set up a fake profile
  • receiving hurtful or threatening messages
  • being excluded from online social forums or conversations
  • spreading rumours via social media
  • sending photos or videos that are embarrassing or derogatory

Cyberbullying can have a number of negative effects on children:

  • feelings of anxiety and low mood
  • withdrawal from previously enjoyable activities
  • social isolation
  • disengagement from school
  • heightened levels of stress and distress