Cyberbullying, online harassment and digital abuse can affect anyone. Global statistics show that over 40 percent of internet users have experienced online bullying at some point, either personally or as a bystander. For some people this can be devastating, with self-harm, depression, emotional trauma and suicide among the list of potential side effects.

Because factors like tone of voice, facial expression and body language don’t apply online, it can be difficult for people to see how their words affect other people. This in itself can cause problems, but there is a more malicious element to some online behavior that includes targeted harassment, viral hate campaigns, intimidation, blackmail, reputation attacks, revenge porn and mob bullying — to name a few.

For parents trying to understand how these issues can affect their children, here are some important things to keep in mind.

Over 40 percent of internet users have experienced online bullying at some point.

In 2018, a survey of 2,000 children aged 8 to 17 revealed that 77 percent of them wanted their parents to be there for them if something worried them online. (Digital Friendship Report, 2018.) But our experience at Cybersmile is that many of the young people who reach out to us for help are reluctant to speak with their parents about online issues. They feel that their parents do no understand enough. They fear that their parents will overreact or resort to restricting their kids’ access to the internet in an attempt to make the problem go away. This is something that parents should be aware of so that their children feel comfortable about speaking with them should online problems arise. Open, non-judgmental communication is key to enabling healthy conversation between parents and children regarding their online behavior, safety and well-being.

At Cybersmile, we’re committed to helping people of all ages make positive choices about how they use the internet. We use technology and online social engagement to facilitate global access to our digital resources and our Global Support Service. Cybersmile Ambassadors and supporters include some of the world’s leading social influencers and corporations, and they all help amplify our work through innovative projects and online awareness campaigns. Our annual Stop Cyberbullying Day event for 2018 reached over 100 million people through an organized Thunderclap to underscore the global desire for an internet without bullying, fear, threats or abuse.

For more information about Cybersmile’s work, visit cybersmile.org.