Cyberbullying is when a person is being threatened, teased or abused through technology such as the internet or mobile phone. Cyberbullying is just as harmful and sometimes worse as face to face bullying, as it can be constant and often happens at home, where the person would normally feel safe. It can have a major impact on people’s lives and is never acceptable.

How can someone be bullied online?

There are many ways a person can be bullied online, the main ones include:

  • Email – Emails can be sent to anyone. The sender only needs to know your email address in order to send abusive or intimidating messages. If you receive such messages, we would advise deleting your old address, sending an email to your mail provider reporting the abusive messages and creating a new account with an address that the bullies do not know.
  • Instant messenger – Instant messaging (Msn, Facebook Messanger, WhatsApp) allows you to add contacts and talk to them in real-time. If you are being bullied through this, you should remove the bully from your contacts list
  • Social networking websites - If you are being bullied by someone through social networking you should ‘block’ or remove the person from your network so that they can no longer contact you. Social media websites let you report inappropriate or threatening behaviour to their administrators. Some social networking websites, such as Tumblr, allow users to contact you anonymously. You should disable this feature if you are receiving abuse.
  • Computer games – If you have an internet connection you can play computer games online with people from around the world. The problem is that you cannot always control who you play with or against. This could result in abusive or offensive communications through microphones or messages.

Mobile phones

Cyberbullying isn’t restricted to the internet. If a bully has access to your private phone number they can leave abusive text messages, photos, calls or voicemails. Even though it is a lot of hassle, the best way to stop this type of bullying is to change your phone number.

Making offensive calls is a criminal offence. Anyone who is found guilty could have to pay a large fine and they may also be given a six-month prison sentence.

Dealing with cyberbullies

Removing a bully from your ‘friends’ or creating a new email address can be solutions to cyberbullying. However, it is important to look at the bigger picture as this type of behaviour is usually only one part of the issue. Bullying is usually carried out by people you know and could start off in places such as school, work or clubs.

If you are a victim of bullying, never respond or get into an argument with the person or group. Save any messages, texts or pictures as they can be used to help the police investigate further if the need arises.

Any threats of violence should be reported to the police.

The ChildLine and BullyingUK websites are good sources of further advice and information.