- Cyberbullying, also known as online bullying, is bullying that’s done using technology.
- A cyberbully can be someone you know, or a stranger.
- Cyberbullying is just as hurtful as physical and verbal bullying and can affect someone for a very long time.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying using technology to bully or hurt someone else. For example, cyberbullying may involve the internet, a mobile phone or camera. It is common, especially among children and teenagers.
Cyberbullying can include:
- sending or sharing nasty, hurtful or abusive messages or emails
- humiliating others by posting or sharing embarrassing videos or images
- spreading rumours or lies online
- setting up fake online profiles
- excluding others online
- repeated harassment and threatening messages (cyberstalking)
A cyberbully might work in secret, keeping their identity hidden or sometimes several cyberbullies work together. They can target their victim by various electronic means, including:
- email, text and instant messaging services
- online chat rooms and discussion groups
- social media, such as Twitter and Facebook
- photo-sharing and video-sharing applications
- blogs and websites
Cyberbullying can occur anywhere, including in the home, school or workplace.
What makes cyberbullying so hurtful?
Cyberbullying can be just as hurtful as physical or verbal bullying for several reasons:
- It’s public, and lots of people can see it.
- It spreads quickly.
- It can be hard to escape.
- The bully can be anonymous.
- Removing it can be a difficult process.
What does cyberbullying look like?
Cyberbullying comes in many forms; here are some examples:
- You receive hurtful text messages, whether it’s from someone you know or someone you don’t know.
- A nasty, threatening or rude message about you appears on social networking sites and internet forums.
- Photos and videos intended to hurt or embarrass you are sent either to you or to others.
- Rumours about you are spread by email, text messages or on social networking sites.
- People use your social media account (for example, Facebook or Twitter) to hurt or humiliate you.
- Someone attempts to prevent you from communicating online with other people.
- Your passwords are stolen, or someone hacks into your accounts and changes information.
- Someone pretends to be you, or posts messages or status updates from your accounts.
What are the effects of cyberbullying?
The effects of cyberbullying can vary:
- lower school attendance and poor school performance
- increased stress and anxiety and anger
- feeling scared, alone, guilty or ashamed
- poor concentration
- depression and sadness
- decreased self-esteem and confidence
In extreme cases the cyberbullying can lead to suicide. This is more common in teenagers.
Children who are victims of cyberbullying might seem moodier than usual, avoid school and be uncomfortable around electronic devices. They might drop out of social activities.
If you or someone you know is at immediate risk of suicide, call triple zero (000) now.
How can I address or avoid cyberbullying?
There are things you can do to address or avoid cyberbullying.
- Talk to someone you trust – a relative, a school counsellor, a friend, or a workmate.
- ‘Block’ or ‘unfriend’ the bully and change your privacy settings.
- Share your login details only with people you trust.
- Take screenshots to keep the bully’s mobile phone messages, and emails or social network conversations; you might need it for evidence.
- Report the post, image or message. Ask someone you trust to help you if you don’t know how.
- Do not forward or share the post or message. It is better to leave a group or conversation and not to take part.
What can you do to help?
If someone you know or care about is being bullied:
- Reassure that person that you are in this together.
- Help them plan how to respond to and cope with the bullying.
- Encourage them to talk openly about what’s happening and how this is making them feel.
- Suggest they see a health professional to talk things through.
- Identify practical steps and strategies together — who they can talk to at school/work/sport and what they can do when the bullying is happening.
Where can I find out more?
If you or someone you know experience cyberbullying, there are people who can help you:
- Call the police on triple zero (000) if you feel that you are in danger.
- Lifeline (13 11 14) is a free and confidential service staffed by trained telephone counsellors
- Office of the eSafety Commissioner helps victims of cyberbullying
- Call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 for help and advice. This is a free and confidential, telephone counselling service for 5 to 25-year-olds.
- Visit the Australian Government’s eSafety and/or safety parents website.
- Learn more about cyberbullying at Reachout.com.
- Youth Law Australia provides legal information to children and young people in Australia.
- The Australian Human Rights Commission (1300 656 419) has a complaint handling service that may investigate complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying
- Check out Bullying No Way! — A professional learning resource for bullying prevention.
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Last reviewed: July 2022