Upgrade to Chrome Upgrade to Firefox Upgrade to Internet Explorer Upgrade to Safari

Online (Cyber) Bullying

Online (Cyber) bullying – using information and communication technologies to display deliberate, repeated and hostile behaviour to hurt, harass or harm others

As we adapt to progresses in Technology and changes in attitudes and behaviours, Online-bullying is an area that is constantly changing.

Social networking sites, messaging apps and gaming sites can be great fun and a positive experience. But what do you do when things go wrong?

As a young person, you have been born into a world of advanced technology, which enables you to communicate, socialise, network, learn and create online. The online world however, is constantly changing. Technology keeps advancing and all those advances can make it feel as though you’re running a race, and they just keep moving that finishing line! Every time you think you’re there and you are done, they move it just out of reach and you have to keep going.

Sadly, technology is easily abused and misused. A big issue for many with the online world today is finding a balance in how we use that world. And within that comes the challenge of what we say and how we act to others. If our actions online aren’t kind and positive, then it can have a huge impact on others and upon the digital footprint we are leaving online. Equally, what others say and do online, can impact how we feel too.

If you use and access technology in any way, you must ensure you use it safely and respectfully. Problems occur when people do not understand the consequences of using the technologies and fail to use them with respect. This leads to online bullying and other challenges.

Online bullying is a very real and increasing issue and one that you may have either experienced yourself or seen happening online. This could be sending or posting nasty messages or videos, spreading rumours about a person, sending threats, impersonating a person to cause them embarrassment or telling someone to hurt themselves. Potentially, vast numbers of people can witness an online-bullying incident take place. The relatively new phenomenon of something ‘going viral’ describes the way in which the internet can be used to spread an act of bullying to thousands, even millions of people. The media is full of high profile cases of young people taking their own lives after suffering from online-bullying and the spreading of their humiliation. This is a clear indicator of just how dangerous online-bullying can be.

It is important that you know what online bullying is and what to do if it happens to you or you see it happening to others.  It is only with this awareness that you can know what to do to help and support someone struggling with online bullying, or even support someone recognising they want to make changes to their own online behaviour.


There are a couple of terms which you may be aware of that are used when online bullying is discussed:


Disassociation means that for many, having that computer screen between them and the person they are making hurtful or offensive comments to, can act as a barrier and make them act in a way they wouldn’t if they were face to face with that person.


Anonymity is when people don’t know who you are. In the online world it means where someone creates an account and people don’t know their real identity. Where online bullying is concerned, this can enable people to create a persona and bully others from behind it, giving them a barrier to hide behind so that they don’t have to accept ownership for their actions. Sadly, to those it happens to, anonymous bullying is very cruel, leaving the person affected wondering who is behind it, making them feel insecure and vulnerable.

Friends or Followers

In today’s world, young people spend a lot of time socialising online. This can be with people they know in the offline world as well as those they have never met face-to-face. The online world can be a wonderful way to connect with those who have similar interests and beliefs, and is a whole new way of navigating new friendships, sharing and connecting in a public space. It’s hard to imagine a world without social media. So many people have an account on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – or all three! You can connect with your friends even when you can’t see them in person.

This in itself can present a whole new way of navigating relationships, personal interactions and the nuances of sharing and connecting in a public space. So before you connect with others online and share part of your lives with them, it’s important that you have certain boundaries in place and that you ask yourself, ‘Do I know the difference between a friend and follower’?

‘Friends’ tend to be those with whom users will share their own personal profile. It’s usually a mutual relationship with both parties able to engage and interact with everything their friends post online.
‘Followers’ on the other hand, can typically be just one-way relationships, and, dependent on the platform, only provide access to certain aspects of an individual’s profile, such as a person’s content feed. A common trait that often exists between the two however, is the desire to gather as many friends or followers as possible.* (*Information from nationalonlinesafety.com).

What can go wrong?

It is very easy on social media to accept a ‘friend request’ from everyone who sends you one, even if you don’t know them well in the offline world, however, this is not always a good thing to do. If a young person accepts lots of friend requests, their private account can become very public as people will be able to see much more of their account and information. In some cases, accepting a friend request can lead to upsetting incidents, such as, online bullying and the sharing of scary or inappropriate images and content.

Social media makes it easy to distort what true friendships should actually be like. It is important you understand the value of ‘true friendships’ and although online friendships can be developed, not everyone can be trusted online and it is difficult to check if someone is who they say they are. In the digital world you can feel under pressure to have a lot of friends and followers, but remember you only need a small circle of good friends to be happy, and when online, keep your most private thoughts, memories, and experiences for those who really care about you.

Managing the Situation

If you are affected by online bullying in any way, it is important to speak out and tell someone you trust what has been happening. With their help and support, you can consider what to do, how to manage the situation and who best to report it to. Keep as much evidence as you can (texts, messages, emails, screenshots) as this can be used when reporting the incident. You may want to use our reporting log to help you.

It’s important to make your Family aware of what is happening. They will be able to give you the emotional support you need to help you through this challenging situation.

If you are being bullied online by someone from your School, then it’s important to let them know. Speak with a teacher you like and trust, providing as much evidence as you can, and let them know what has been happening. Take a family member with you for support.

Some forms of online bullying, such as a threat to harm you, may be a matter for the Police. Again, take someone with you for support and report the incident, showing them the evidence.

Most Platforms give you the option to report online bullying and/or harmful content. Always use this function. You can also get some good guidance from Report Harmful Content, who also have a helpline. For bullying behaviour to stop, it needs to be identified and reporting it is key.

You may want to check out our Talk2Us service too.

Some Further Guidance:

Try not to respond: Most people who bully or troll others online are looking for a response. We would suggest not responding as to do so is simply ‘giving them what they want’ They want you to respond so they can keep coming back with their hateful comments. Some platforms give you the option to mute a person and their comments. If you have this, use it and then you won’t be exposed to their hateful words.

Block those who are bullying you: If you feel hurt, intimidated or threatened by a comment, on most platforms, you will always have the option to block or unfollow/unfriend the person or people who are hurting you. This may feel difficult if you know the person or they are part of your school community, however, you need to feel safe online and not be subjected to hate so if you mute or block their comments, it will prevent you from further hurt. If you feel that it is safe to do so, you may want to speak to them about their comments and the hurt they have caused and ask them to delete them. We all need to be thoughtful about what we share or say that may hurt others.

Check your privacy settings: Always make sure that you have the highest possible privacy settings. Think twice before posting or sharing anything on digital platforms, who can see the content you post online, and what you are prepared to share with an audience as huge as a social network. Unless you have the correct privacy settings, people can share your content with people you don’t know and that will be out of your control. Remember, the content you post could be online forever and may be used to harm you later. Never give out personal details and always ensure your photos don’t identify your home, school or other personal information. Think before you post.

Self-care: When you’re affected by an incident of online bullying, it can be very difficult and emotional. You may feel hurt, angry or sad, or even all of them, and that’s okay. You might find it helpful to have a break from the online world for a while. Why not try our Digital Detox Challenge! You might want to visit some friends or family, go for a walk or listen to some music – anything to take your mind off what has been happening. Surround yourself with happy, positive people and hopefully you will soon start to feel better. As things always seem to feel worse at night-time, try not to go online then. Watch a good film, read a book or have a good night’s sleep. Self care is so important and it has been proved that engaging in a self-care routine can reduce or eliminate anxiety, improve our mental health, reduce stress, improve concentration, minimise frustration and anger, increase happiness, improve energy, and lots more.


Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

Photo by Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash


Types of Online-Bullying

There are many ways in which a person can be bullied online and for some people, it happens in more ways than one. Some types of online-bullying are:

Flaming: This is sending really offensive, angry, rude, vulgar messages directly to a person or persons or to an online group with the purpose of causing online arguments or fights.

Harassment: This is when a person sends repeated and prolonged offensive, rude, insulting and abusive messages to another person. It can also be consistent nasty or humiliating comments on posts, photos and in chat rooms or being explicitly offensive on gaming sites.

Denigration: This is when someone sends or posts harmful fake, untrue rumours, information or photos about a person to others. This can be on any site or through an app.

Online-stalking: This is the act of repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm, harassment, intimidation or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for their safety. Depending on what has been done, the actions may be illegal.

Impersonation: This is when a person hacks into another person’s email or social networking account and uses their identity to post/send online material to or about others.

TrickerySometimes known as ‘Catfishing’. When we pretend to be someone else to deceive another. In the world of online bullying, this often allows the person to trick a person into believing they are someone else and trusting them, only to then reveal their secrets publicly.

Exclusion (Ostracising): Online exclusion is a very real and very isolating form of bullying behaviour. It is excluding someone from a group, or from certain posts with the purpose of making another feel left out or excluded. A more covert form of bullying behaviour and often not considered when thinking about online bullying, but one that needs highlighted so that someone suffering from it can both seek support and understand why it may be affecting them to the extent that it is.

Other types of Online-Bullying

Threats and intimidation – sent to people by mobile phone, email or online. Anyone who makes threats to another person on the internet could be committing a criminal offence. It is against the law in the UK to use the phone system, which includes the internet, to cause distress or alarm to another person. If someone threatens you, it is vital you make a complaint to the police. The police will need to see the threats made against you so if you are unable to print out the threats use the ‘print screen’ button to take a snapshot of the computer screen and then save that somewhere safe. If you have a phone or tablet, use the ‘screenshot’ function and keep the images safe.

Vilification / Defamation – This is the act of injuring another person’s reputation by slanderous communication, whether written or oral. It is when a person maliciously tries to damage the good name of another’s individual character, product or business. Don’t spread rumours or make up false things about a person you have fallen out with. You are not allowed to upload anything which is threatening, abusive or which is defamatory. It’s defamatory if you say untrue things about someone which can give them a bad reputation they don’t deserve. It can also be harassment which is a criminal offence in the UK.

Identity theft, unauthorised access and impersonation – ‘hacking’ by finding out or guessing a username and password. Identity theft is becoming an increasingly common problem in the United Kingdom, as fraudsters discover more and more ways to get hold of the information which is required to steal someone’s identity

Identity theft involves the perpetrator of the crime taking a person’s personal information and then using this in an unauthorised way for their own personal gain.

Manipulation and Blackmail – This can involve getting people to act or talk in a provocative way. Many young people have been pressured by ‘friends’ online to take their clothes off and film or take images of themselves. If they refuse, threats are then made to tell their parents embarrassing and/or sensitive information. If they have already sent images over and refuse to send more, they are threatened further and told the images will be sent to everyone they know if they don’t continue to send them.

This is a criminal offence called ‘Grooming’ and those found guilty of grooming can face a prison sentence.

Everyone you meet on the Internet is a stranger and it is essential that you do not share personal information, secrets and images with them. If you are asked to anything that makes you feel concerned, uncomfortable or afraid, DON’T DO IT. Tell a parent or guardian and report the person immediately.

Sexting This is when one person sends to another a naked picture or ‘nudes’, underwear shots, sexual or ‘dirty pics’ rude text messages or videos. These can be sent to or from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or someone you’ve met online.

When you’re under 18 it is against the law for anyone to take or have a sexual photo of you – even if it’s a selfie.

This means that if you pressure someone into taking a photo or you share or redistribute a sexual photo with someone, you are breaking the law. The law is there to protect young people and the police have the power to decide whether it is for the best to record what’s happened or to take things further.

Inappropriate Images – In today’s technological world, it is very easy to save pictures of anyone on any site and upload them to the Internet – on view for thousands to see. If you upload a picture of someone to the Internet, always make sure you have their permission and they’re happy for you to do so. Don’t let people take pictures of you that you may find embarrassing and always make sure they have your permission before uploading a picture of you to the Internet.

Be careful when ‘tagging’ or ‘hash tagging’ as this can send the picture out to an even wider audience.

Never upload a picture for other people to ‘have a laugh at’ or digitally alter pictures of other people – even if you fall out with a person. This is hurtful and upsetting and can be seen as harassment.

Some Helpful Tips

Internet service providers, such as, Sky, BT or Virgin, have an electronic note of our online activity. Every time you visit a website or post on a website, even if you create an anonymous email address, you can still be traced. If you post abuse about anyone else online or if you send threats, you can be traced by the police without any difficulty.

When using passwords, always make sure they are unusual. Use a combination of letters, lowercase, uppercase, symbols and numbers. Don’t use any part of your name or email address and don’t use your birth date. When you do use information like this, it is easy for people who know you to guess what your password might be. Don’t let anyone see you signing in and if they do, change the password as soon as you can. Never share your password with anyone.

If you are using a public computer such as one in a library, computer shop, or even a shared family computer, make sure you sign out of any online service you are using before leaving the computer so that you can protect your privacy.

Being bullied online can have a detrimental effect on a person. It can affect a person’s self-esteem, confidence and social skills. In many cases people who have been bullied have had to leave school, work and social networks to escape the bullying behaviour. Try to consider the impact your words may have and think twice before posting. Remember, cruel words, nasty texts, messages and emails are all weapons – and weapons can hurt and kill.

It could be that having read the above you now have concerns about content that you yourself have posted online. Recognising inappropriate behaviour in yourself can be the first step towards making a change.

Whilst we can’t delete forever what we post, we can certainly make in-roads by deleting content we feel that we shouldn’t have posted.

Think twice before you post anything online because once it’s out there you can’t take it back. It is very easy for any comments or posts you make online to be taken out of context and these could be damaging to you in the long term. Read more about digital footprints  and how this can affect your life both online and offline

Return to Website

Need to talk?

If you are being bullied or are concerned about someone who is, you can receive help and support from one of our trained Mentors through our e-mentoring service.

If you would like a Mentor to email you, please contact: mentorsonline@bulliesout.com

If you would rather speak to someone over the telephone, you can call Childline on: 0800 1111

For any community-related issues, such as anti-social behaviour, we would suggest contacting your landlord, the local police or your local environmental health department (where applicable), as we are unable to deal with these types of complaints.