Anyone can be targeted by cyber bullying

Feb 1, 2021.

We spoke with Joachim Zahn as part of our “Online safety” series. Joachim is a project manager at, an association that teaches media literacy to more than 1,000 school classes and 250 parent groups every year – providing a foundation for protecting young people from cyber bullying. Joachim gives us some valuable insights into his work.

Mr Zahn, what is and what does the association do?

Children and young adults have to learn how to navigate digital and social media channels and forms of communication. As with anything, part of the learning process means making mistakes. But this can quickly lead to consequences in today’s world. One click is sometimes all it takes. Our employees use a combination of exercises and discussions to help them make fewer errors and minimise the fallout from possible mistakes. We also make use of chat features, social media, gaming and streaming to address these issues. We advise school classes, parents and professionals.



What types of cyber bullying do you commonly address?

Cyber bullying involves a “stronger” person or a group persistently harassing a “weaker” person, such as by excluding them from chat groups and, frequently, spreading lies about them. It sometimes takes the form of image manipulation and, in rarer instances, creating fake profiles. Sadly, we see many forms of targeted abuse in chats: hateful remarks, mass bullying, pranks and practical jokes that are no longer amusing. Sending inappropriate content to others is also a form of targeted abuse.



How has cyber bullying developed over the past few years? 

Children are starting to use smartphones and tablets at an increasingly early age. The greatest change lies in the fact that the culprits and the victims are becoming younger and younger. We have also noticed that cyber bullying is almost always an extension of offline bullying. While cyber bullying used to take place primarily on social media channels, it now tends to occur on WhatsApp.



Who tends to be a victim? Is there an archetype, so to speak?

The most important thing to understand is that anyone can be the victim of cyber bullying. Parents should always assume their child could be either the victim or the culprit. There is no “typical” victim. At most, we could say that children who have a strong emotional response to certain situations can be easier to provoke.



How can parents see when their child is a victim of cyber bullying? Are there any warning signals?

When speaking to families affected by cyber bullying, we often hear that children try to hide it from their parents. Bullying is frequently accompanied by feelings of shame and anxiety. As a result, parents should look for very subtle signs: fewer social engagements, reduced appetite, increased sensitivity, occasional aggressiveness or introverted behaviour.


Important: If a parent wishes to speak to their child, they need to do so with a great deal of respect and calm. Children are often afraid that their parents will become upset and go straight to the culprit’s family to resolve the matter. It may take several attempts to broach the subject – it’s not about getting the child to “confess” to anything.



What tips can you give parents to help protect their children from cyber bullying?

Sadly, this is often beyond the parents’ reach, which is why preventing bullying and cyber bullying is a general issue. This means committing to social values and putting them into practice, such as taking a stand when somebody behaves in the wrong way or defending someone affected by abuse. Children see this and take it on board.


The most important thing is to encourage children to seek help and confide in someone. It can be counterproductive if the child is afraid their parent will simply take their phone or tablet away from them if they say they are involved in cyber bullying in some way (whether as a victim or culprit).



What can people do if it happens despite these measures?

Cyber bullying is extremely stressful for children and parents alike. It is essential to seek help. If a school has a social worker or teacher liaison on site, they should go to this person together to discuss the situation and possible options. This professional is bound by confidentiality and can respond to the situation in different ways.


If these options are not available, it is worth considering whether to approach the police. Ultimately, if a person uses the options at their disposal, they won’t remain a victim for long.

“The most important thing is to encourage children to seek help and confide in someone.”


Joachim Zahn, Project Manager,

About is an association committed to ensuring that children and young adults are educated on media and prevention as well as possible. The aim is to protect children and young adults from internet addiction, cyber bullying and other risks in an engaging, comprehensible, emotive and effective way. The focus is on teaching people about safe media usage, especially in conjunction with chat tools, social media, smartphones and tablets.




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