Every year thousands of children contact Childline about being bullied online and tell us how it can feel impossible to escape. Lockdown has intensified these feelings for many and since April we’ve counselled more than 1,500 children and young people across the UK and Channel Islands about online bullying.

Children have told us about people sending threatening text messages and being pressured into engaging in sexual conversations. Others have shared how they’ve been excluded from online games by other children, whilst some spoke of online identities being stolen to embarrass or cause trouble using a child’s name.

Before lockdown measures were first introduced, from January to March there were on average 134 counselling sessions with children about online bullying. That monthly average has increased by 84% to 246 counselling sessions from April to September.

This is worrying, especially as we continue to adhere to strict coronavirus restrictions in England, and children continue to spend more time online. This Anti Bullying Week, it’s important to reinforce the long-term impact bullying can have on the mental wellbeing of a child, and how important it is that every child knows who they can turn to for support.

If a parent thinks their child is being bullied online, it can be hard to remain calm, but it’s crucial not to overwhelm a child with questions. Taking their device away is likely to make them feel like whatever has happened is their fault; instead it’s helpful to listen to their worries, suggest they take some time away from certain apps, and provide them with reassurance.

There are more tips about how to help you and your child cope with bullying on the NSPCC website. We know that long-term bullying can lead to long-term mental health issues and this still remains the top concern of calls to Childline with over 43,000 counselling sessions taking place in regard to mental health since the lockdown started. Bullying can happen for any reason and that’s why Childline launched its ‘Nobody is Normal’ campaign this month to highlight that no matter how you feel inside, you’re not alone and there’s no need to suffer in silence.

If you’re an adult concerned about a child, please call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000. Childline is still here for children on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org

Anna Collishaw-Nikodemus, NSPCC Local Campaigns Manager