Online Bullying

Cases of online bullying are on the increase, and they can be just as serious and hurtful as face to face bullying.

You can be in your own personal, safe space like your bedroom and still be bullied

What is it?

Online bullying, also known as cyber bullying, is when someone or a group of people upset, humiliate or hurt another person via the internet or digital technology. This could be on social networks, through email, text, gaming, and on a load of different devices.

Why is it so bad?

Online bullying can happen anywhere, at any time. You can be in your own personal, safe space like your bedroom and still be bullied. It can also come from lots of places at once, like on different social networks, from lots of different accounts. It can also be anonymous, and can cause more harm than other forms of bullying.

Concerns about online bullying reported to Childline increased by 87% in 2012-2013.

I’m being bullied online and I don’t know what to do

It can feel like there’s no escape from online bullying, but no one has a right to make you feel this way and they can be stopped. The most important thing is to try to tell someone you trust – like a friend, teacher, parent/carer or other relative. You could also talk to Childline. Things can get better, and telling someone is the first step. Here are some other tips that may help you if you’re being bullied online:

  • Block them. Most social networks have a block option which means you won’t receive messages from them. You can also block phone numbers on some phones.
  • Keep your details private. Don’t give out your number, address, email or other contact details to anyone you don’t know really well.
  • Check your privacy settings. You can control the information you send out on social networks. Think about what you are sharing and who you are sharing it with.
  • Save the evidence. This will help you explain to people what is happening. Take screenshots, save the messages. Don’t delete anything, but don’t reply either. Retaliating can often make the situation worse and may end up with you getting some blame.
  • Lots of the sites you use like Facebook and YouTube have their own advice areas where you can get some help if you’re being bullied. Head to this page on Childnet to find out more.

Am I an online bully?

It may be that you think you’re just joking with someone, when you’re actually causing them real upset or embarrassment. Think about how you would feel if you were receiving the messages. If it doesn’t sit right with you, don’t get involved with it. What may start off as a joke can get out of hand very quickly.

Online Bullying and the law

There isn’t a specific online bullying law in the UK, but some actions can be criminal offences under different laws. People have been prosecuted for abusive behaviour towards others on social networking sites.

If you post abusive comments online, you can be traced very quickly. Hiding behind a screen doesn’t mean you are hidden.

Dan & Phil - dealing with online haters

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

This page was last updated on 9 Oct 2017.

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