Childline counselling for cyberbullying continues to rise

12% increase reported as Anti-Bullying Week, 13-17 November, starts

Girl on bed looking worried5,103 counselling sessions about cyberbullying were held by Childline in 2016/17 – a 12% increase from the previous year. Sessions have more than doubled since cyberbullying was first recorded as a specific issue 5 years ago.

Children have told counsellors about name-calling, spreading rumours, death threats and blackmail posted publicly on social media profiles, blogs and online pictures:

  • Children as young as 9-years-old have contacted Childline about cyberbullying
  • Girls and 12-15 year olds have received the most counselling sessions.

Young people left struggling to cope

Cyberbullying is also contributing to young people's mental health issues, such as low self-esteem, depression, self-harming and suicidal thoughts.

The 24/7 nature of social media and the feeling they are unable to escape the bullying, even at home, can leave young people struggling to cope.

"I'm being bullied on social media by people who call me fat and ugly. I can't block them because then they'll just bully me even more at school. I don't want to talk to my teachers about it, I just feel like giving up. I've been self-harming to cope but I just want to stop feeling this way."
Boy who called Childline

Dame Esther Rantzen, Founder and President of Childline said:
“Young people these days rely upon their mobile phones and social media to keep in touch with their friends, but inevitably that makes it easier for bullies to pursue their victims relentlessly. Whether bullying occurs online or in person it can have a devastating impact on a young person, destroying their confidence and leaving them isolated and vulnerable.

“Every year as a nation we lose precious young lives because bullying has made children and teenagers feel that life is not worth living. Childline wants to remind young people that they are not alone. We are here for them day and night, offering confidential help and advice.”

We’re calling on the Government to keep children safe online

We are calling on the Government to draw up a rulebook enshrined in law to require all social media sites to protect children from cyberbullying and other online abuse.

These rules should require social media companies to introduce cyberbullying alerts which flags bullying behaviour to moderators and sends notifications to young people being targeted.

In addition there needs to be strict privacy settings by default, clear and easy to understand reporting processes, and specially-trained child safety moderators.

Developing new tools and solutions
We're are also working with the Royal Foundation Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying, in order to develop new tools and solutions for children and young people to support their friends who are being bullied online.


Anti-Bullying Week 2017: 'All different, all equal'

We're supporting Anti-Bullying Week, 13-17 November 2017. This year's theme 'All Different, All Equal' aims to empower children and young people to celebrate what makes them, and others, unique.

Martha Evans, National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance who runs Anti-Bullying Week said:
"These worrying statistics show what an important issue cyberbullying is for young people today. The social pressures that children face are immense and this is compounded by messaging online. We know bullying often starts face to face and spreads into the digital world.

"Anti-Bullying Week is sending the message we are 'All Different, All Equal' and we hope to provide a platform for children, teachers and parents, to raise awareness of what to do if a child is being bullied, or they see it happening to someone else. We should all be doing more, including social media companies, Government, schools, parents and anti-bullying charities, to spread the message online as well."


Cyberbullying: what you can do

18 or under?

Childline offers free, confidential advice and support whatever your worry, whenever you need help.

0800 1111

Contact Childline

Call Online Safety Helpline

Have a question about parental controls or concern about a new social network children use? Whatever it is, our expert advisors are here to help.

0808 8005002


Posed by model. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect identities.


  1. In 2011/12 Childline started specifically recording cyber-bullying counselling sessions by introducing a sub-code, they delivered 2,410 counselling session that year compared to 5,103 in 2016/17. After 2011/12 the charity then brought in a combination of sub codes and tagging codes to record the issue.