Cyberbullying is any form of bullying that takes place online. This can be done over smartphones, tablets, online gaming, chat forums and social media. Sometimes what people call 'bullying' is just an argument between two people, but if someone is repeatedly cruel to you that's bullying and you should not blame yourself.
Cyberbullying could be illegal if the content is threatening, and something as simple as 'liking' a mean post on Facebook or spreading a rumour on Twitter could mean you are acting in a bullying manner.
Follow these tips to help avoid being the target of bullying online:
- Save or screenshot any offensive or harassing messages so you have a record of what was said. This will show what is going on and help the police take action.
- Make sure your privacy settings are strong to prevent people seeing information that you don't want them to see. Good privacy settings could include, for example, only allowing family members and trusted friends to see your content.
- Don't share passwords with anyone. Even your closest friends today might not be close forever.
- Avoid further communication. Don't reply or retaliate to offensive comments online. Sometimes the bully is deliberately trying to get a reaction because they think it gives them power over you. If you do react, it might only make things worse or get you into trouble.
- Block online bullies so they can no longer contact you and report any messages you receive. Most social media platforms give options for flagging and reporting content or messages that breach their guidelines.
- If your friend is being bullied online, it can be very helpful if you listen to them and talk things through. Maybe you could offer support by helping them to report the bullying, writing supportive comments when other people are posting negative messages, or simply doing fun stuff together like watching a DVD, playing sport or just hanging out.
- Bullying can be really hurtful, making the victim feel upset and hopeless. Sometimes it can make people feel like hurting themselves if they read nasty messages every time they turn on their device. Before you post a comment online, always think what how you would feel if someone said the same thing about you.
- Tell someone. Bullying can be hard to talk about but you should not deal with it alone. Talk to a trusted adult such as a parent, family member, carer or a teacher.
- Tell the police if you are ever threatened with physical harm. The police can look at messages to see if they are potentially criminal and can take action – this could simply mean getting an apology, or arresting the person responsible for more serious matters.