Online issues and worries: online bullying
Online bullying (sometimes called cyberbullying), is any behaviour that uses technology and devices to deliberately target or upset someone.
What is online bullying?
Online bullying is common, and unlike face-to-face bullying, you can't go home and shut the door on it. It can happen anywhere you go online, like social media, group chat or gaming sites.
Online bullying can happen to anyone, and bullies might target you for lots of reasons, like:
- the way you look
- your sexuality
- health condition
- how rich or poor you appear
If you are being discriminated against (treated differently) because of your race, gender, sexuality or disability, you may be a victim of online hate, which is a crime.
Why do people bully?
There could be lots of reasons that someone becomes a bully. Maybe they are acting out and bullying others because they are being bullied themselves, perhaps they are suffering from mental health issues, or perhaps they have other things going on in their personal lives. Sometimes talking to them and telling them how their behaviour makes you feel can help. They might not realise what they are doing. But some may bully because they like the power it gives them and how it makes them look to others. Whatever the reason, it doesn't make it okay, and it's never your fault if you're being bullied.
How to know if you're being bullied online
Online bullying can happen in lots of ways. Here are some examples:
- sending offensive, insulting or rude messages
- abusive posts
- posting nasty comments
- spreading fake, damaging or untrue information about you
- sharing photos of you for others to make fun of
- editing photos of you
- using nasty language to start arguments or upset someone
- hacking emails or social media accounts and using your identity to send or post stuff
- creating fake accounts to cause hurt and embarrassment
- tricking someone into telling secrets or personal information and forwarding it to others (including private images and videos)
- sending messages threatening harm
- deliberately leaving someone out of group messages, online apps, gaming sites and so on
- sending sexual messages or pressuring someone into sexual conversations, or sharing sexual images. See Online Sexual Harassment for further information
How to keep yourself safe
Anyone can become a target of online bullying, but there are some steps you can take to stay safe online.
- If using a public computer (such as in school, a library or an internet café), always sign out of your accounts.
- Use unique passwords with a combination of upper case, lower case, symbols and numbers – don't include information that is easy to guess (such as birthdays).
- Make sure nobody sees you signing in and out of your accounts – if someone does, change your password as soon as possible.
- Turn off location settings and set your account to private.
- Don't retaliate by posting or sending something as payback – you can't take it back after.
What should I do if I'm being bullied online?
If you are the victim of online bullying, it's important to remember that you have a right not to be bullied, no matter where it happens. It's normal to be upset by bullying, and it can impact your mental health, self-esteem, how well you do at school or college and your relationships, as well as other things.
If you are upset, it's important not to retaliate (doing something back to them) – the bullies are the ones with the problem, not you. Here are some steps you can take if you are being bullied online.
- Talk to a trusted adult (for example a parent/carer or teacher) and let them know what's going on.
- Distance yourself from the bully in real life and online – block them on social media.
- Save any evidence, including dates, times and places – keep screenshots or a copy of the messages.
- Don't retaliate – even though it may seem tempting to get revenge, this could get you into trouble.
- Report any bullying or abusive posts to the social media platform – see some links to report below.
- Change your privacy settings and keep your details private.
- Look after your mental health – don't blame yourself and try some self-care by doing other things that you enjoy too.
When to talk to the police
There are times when bullying becomes a crime, and this is when you should report to the police. This includes:
- violence or physical assault
- sexual assault
- bullying because of race, gender or sexual identity, disability (this is a hate crime)
- sharing, or threatening to share, a naked picture of you
How can I help if I think my friend is being bullied online?
Sometimes it can be difficult to know if someone is being bullied, but if you're worried about a friend or classmate, then there are ways you can help.
- Listen and be there for them if they want to chat.
- Talk to them regularly and tell them you are there for them.
- Help them report the bullying – help them think of what they want to say.
- Don't like, share or comment on a bullying post – it can make it more popular and visible.
- Help take their mind off things by playing a game, watching a film or playing some sport.
- Be positive and kind – it can help others feel better.
Advice from other young people aged 12-16
The most important thing is to speak up. Never be afraid to report something as it could help others in the long term. It will be so much better once you have reported because the weight is off your shoulders.
If you see someone else being unkind (whether it's aimed at you or not) don’t be a bystander. Screenshot it and report it. When reporting stuff online you can be anonymous and completely safe as no one will know it’s you.
Try and communicate with the person being bullied to see if they are okay and see if they want help to do something about it. Take a picture and send it to your parents or carer, sometimes it's easier to tell your parent something over text other than in person.
Where to go for help
If you’re looking for help or information, but you’re worried about starting a conversation with an adult, here are some tips.
- Anti-Bullying Alliance – Advice and support on dealing with bullying
- App guides for families – provides information on how to block and report content on 40+ popular apps, social media platforms and games
- BullyingUK – for advice and support on dealing with bullying
- Childline – free, private and confidential helpline for children and young people in the UK where you can talk about anything. Call 0800 1111
- Meic – a free and confidential helpline for children and young people in Wales with advisers to help you find the support you need. Call 080880 23456, text 84001 or chat online
- Mind Cymru - A free and confidential helpline and advice service for people experiencing mental health problems – call 0300 123 3393
- National Bullying Helpline – An anti-bullying helpline for children and adults
- Report Harmful Content – a national reporting centre that has been designed to assist everyone in reporting harmful content online
- YoungMinds – Mental Health support for young people
Safer Internet Day film
This film from Cadoxton primary school includes some top tips on how to deal with negativity online.