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What should I do if someone is bullying me online?

Distressed woman looking at laptop

You should not have to put up with online bullying or harassment of any kind. No one should be made to feel bad about themselves or unsafe when they’re sitting at their computer. That applies whether you are in a chat room, on a web forum, or just exchanging emails.

WebWise Team | 10th October 2012

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is really having a go. Are you just not on the same wavelength, humour-wise? That’s always a difficult one. The simple test is to stop interacting with them. Tell them, politely and firmly that their communications are making you feel bad about yourself – and then see what happens. If they stop, if they tone down, it was probably accidental.

If they carry on as before, they are either having a go or not listening to you when you explain how they are making you feel.

Cut off communication

Block them. Many interactive packages have a simple facility that will enable you to ignore an individual completely. Check the help menu and ask someone else using the same space for advice. The first and simplest way to cut yourself off from abuse is to put up a wall between you and the perpetrator.

Your email package should include the ability to block specific addresses as well. Use it.

Of course, the really determined bully won’t stop there. They will come back through other media, using other names. Where you are sure it is the same person, you should report them. On a chat site, that usually means sending a message to the admin for that site. Check for buttons that allow you to report abuse.

Be prepared to complain

When it comes to email, you may need to contact the bully’s service provider. That is usually the owner of the ’domain name’ – and can be identified by looking at the bit of the address that comes after the “@” sign.

Sometimes, even that is not enough. Continuing harassment of another person across the internet is a criminal offence, with specific laws created in the past decade relating to malicious communications online. That is especially the case where the content strays into hate territory - harassment on grounds of gender, orientation, race and a number of other characteristics will always be investigated.

Using the law

Keep all emails, all chat logs and messages as evidence, and don’t be embarrassed about talking to the police.

Ninety-nine times out of 100, the online bully is just that - a sad individual who gets their kicks out of the hurt they know they can cause to another.

Very occasionally, they go further and progress to real-life stalking, or worse. If ever you receive a direct threat, save the evidence and take it straight to the authorities. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

The WebWise 'W'

WebWise Team

WebWise was first launched in 1998 and since then has helped people of all ages to learn about and love the internet.