Cyberbullying involves using technology to bully people. It can include texting, instant messaging, and posting on social media and gaming websites.
Coping with cyberbullying can be difficult because it can happen at any time of the day.
To make matters worse, bullying messages and images can be shared so they are seen by more people for longer than other kinds of bullying. And this kind of sharing can quickly get out of control.
What is cyberbullying?
Examples of cyberbullying include:
- emailing or texting threatening or nasty messages to people
- posting an embarrassing or humiliating video of someone on a video-hosting site such as YouTube
- harassing someone by repeatedly sending texts or instant messages through an app or in a chat room
- setting up profiles on social networking sites, such as Facebook, to make fun of someone
- "happy slapping" – when people use their mobiles to film and share videos of physical attacks
- posting or forwarding someone else's personal or private information or images without their permission – known as "sexting" when the content is sexually explicit
- sending viruses that can damage another person's computer
- making abusive comments about another user on a gaming site
Are you a cyberbully?
Even if you're not the one who started the bullying, you become part of it when you laugh at a message that could be hurtful or threatening to someone else, or forward it on.
Don't let yourself get dragged into cyberbullying. Think about the impact of what you say in instant messages, chat rooms and emails. Could your words be used to hurt someone else, or could they be turned against you?
In some cases, cyberbullying can be a criminal offence. For example, it could be treated as a form of harassment or threatening behaviour.
How to respond to cyberbullying
- Talk to someone you trust. This could be a teacher, parent, carer or friend. Schools have a responsibility to ensure students aren't bullied, and they can take action even if the bullying is happening outside school. You can also call ChildLine confidentially on 0800 1111.
- Report the bullying to the internet service provider (ISP) if the bullying happened online. Ask a parent or teacher for help, or look at Chatdanger for safety advice about mobiles and internet use.
- Report the bullying to your mobile phone provider if you've received bullying texts or calls on your mobile. You may even have to change your number if you're repeatedly bullied.
- Block instant messages and emails. Ask a parent or teacher for help, or visit Chatdanger for advice on how to do this.
- Report serious bullying, such as physical or sexual threats, to the police.
- Don't delete the upsetting emails or messages. Keep the evidence. This will help to identify the bully if the bullying is anonymous. Even people who use a false name or email can be traced.
- Don't reply . This is what the bully wants, and it might make things worse.
How to avoid being cyberbullied
The best way to avoid being cyberbullied is to use the internet and mobile phones carefully.
- Don't give out personal details, such as your phone number or address.
- Think carefully before posting photos or videos of you or your friends online.
- Only give your mobile number to close friends.
- Protect passwords, and never give your friends access to your accounts.
- Use the privacy settings on social media.
- Don't forward nasty emails.
- Learn how to block instant messages or use mail filters to block emails.
- Know how to report bullying to social media sites, internet service providers or website administrators. Ask a parent or teacher for help, or look at the advice on Chatdanger.
Information and help with cyberbullying
Chatdanger contains safety advice on mobiles, chatrooms, email, online games and instant messaging.
Digizen focuses on responsible use of the internet. Its section on cyberbullying includes a short film called Let's fight it together, about how a boy deals with being cyberbullied.
Anti-bullying ambassadors offers tips on how to stay safe online, including how to report abuse on social media sites and apps.