My Child Is a Bully: What to Do When Your Child Bullies Online 

By Andrea Nelson
May 30, 2023
Mom looking at daughter

Discovering your child is bullying another kid online can make you feel everything from anger to sadness to shame. "My child is a bully," you think. "What do I do next?" Know that your child’s cyberbullying doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. It does mean you have some work ahead of you. 

Let this article be your guide as you take steps to stop online bullying and prevent it from happening again. 

Understanding the why

Children bully for many reasons. It could be peer pressure or an attempt to gain social capital. They may have learned from watching others in their lives. Perhaps they’re also the victim of bullying, and they’re acting out as a result. There also might be emotional factors at play — we’ve all heard the adage “hurt people hurt people.” 

Regardless of what prompted the cyberbullying, they’re most likely doing it because they have an unmet need and don’t know a more productive way to get help. Getting to the root of the problem will help you appropriately handle the behavior.

How to stop the bullying 

Putting an end to online bullying requires swiftly addressing the issue and establishing a plan for accountability. 

Here are some tips:

  • Ask them to commit to stop the bullying behavior immediately. Be specific about your expectations and what will happen if the behavior continues. 
  • Help your child understand how their actions hurt the other person. Ask them to imagine how they would feel if the situation was reversed. 
  • Work to address the underlying reason for the bullying. If necessary, seek the assistance of a mental health professional. 

Parenting through a tough situation 

No one said this would be easy, but you’ll get through it — likely as a stronger family unit on the other side. Here are a few guiding ideas to keep you grounded in this tough situation.  


It’s painful to admit your child acted in an unkind way, and it’s natural to rationalize or minimize what happened. But this does no one any good — your child included. The sooner you accept that your child bullied someone online, the sooner things can be resolved. 

Remember that bad actions do not equal a bad child. Your child needs guidance so they can behave in a kinder manner that better reflects your family’s values. 

Firm, but loving

As you talk with your child about what happened, try to remain calm. Let the mantra “firm but loving” be your guide. 

Avoid judging or shaming them; that won’t be productive and may make things worse if it causes them to shut down and pull away. Remember, your kid is not the problem — their behavior is. Let them know what they did isn’t acceptable in your family, but that nothing they do can diminish your love for them.

This doesn’t mean you should let your kid off the hook. They have a responsibility to make things right. You can support and guide them through the process, but it’s ultimately their mess to clean up. 

You may decide that owning up to and addressing their mistake is punishment enough, or you may feel additional consequences are needed. This will depend on your child, their actions, and how your family operates. 

Should you approach the other child’s parents? 

Whether to talk to the parents of the child who was bullied is a complicated decision. It depends on many factors, such as your child’s relationship with the other child and your relationship with their parents. 

If you do decide to talk to them, accept accountability for what happened, and let them know concrete steps you’re taking to stop the behavior. There is often a gulf between what adults think will fix things and what kids actually want and need. If your relationship allows, ask the other parents to find out what their child would like to see happen to make amends. 

Tips to Prevent Cyberbullying in the Future

  • Establish open communication with your child. Encourage them to come to you with their problems — and their mistakes. 
  • Be clear about your expectations and the consequences for their online behavior. Put it in writing with a digital device contract
  • Keep an eye on your child’s online activity. Apps like BrightCanary are a great tool to help you understand what they’re doing (and saying) online. 

The bottom line 

When your child bullies another kid online, it’s a serious situation that needs to be addressed promptly. By using a firm-but-loving approach and following through on expectations, you can put an end to the cyberbullying and teach your child better online behavior going forward. 

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