What is cyber bullying?

Cyber bullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through your mobile phone. Websites like Facebook, Bebo, YouTube, MySpace, instant messaging on MSN and gaming forums can be great fun. But what do you do when things go wrong? Cyber bullying is rife on the internet and most young people will experience it at some time.

Bullying UK gets panic-stricken emails from young people and parents who are upset and angry about abusive and false postings made on these websites.

But there is lots you can do to protect yourself in the first place and to get abusive material removed quickly when you see it. Our sections on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, tell you exactly what to do.

cyber bullying

Problems include:

  • stolen identity
  • threats
  • blackmail
  • rumours and gossip
  • abusive Comments
  • nasty pictures

If you see something inappropriate

If you ever come across anything on the internet, whether it's on a social networking website or anywhere else, where people are making suggestions to you that make you feel uncomfortable or upset, please tell your parents or another adult. You can find out more about reporting innapropriate things here. 

CEOP (The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) investigates cases of sex abuse and grooming on the internet. Grooming is where people make friends with you and try to involve you in inappropriate activities. In the UK this behaviour is a criminal offence. You, your parents or anyone else who is concerned, can report incidents by clicking the red button on the top right hand corner of the CEOP website.

Although the police can get information from your computer's hard drive, it's helpful if you don't delete anything you think is dodgy until the police have decided whether they need it as evidence.

Bullying by stealing your identity

Bullying UK gets lots of complaints about stolen identity. This happens when someone either hacks into your account or pretends to be you when they set up a new account.

Try to pick an unusual password and use letters and numbers. Don't use any part of your name or email address and don't use your birth date either because that's easy for people who know you to guess. Don't let anyone see you signing in and if they do, change the password as soon as you can.

Bullying by spreading rumours and gossip

The worst thing about social networking websites is that anything nasty posted about you can be seen by lots of people because it's so public and because the bullies make sure they tell everyone where to find the abuse.

Complaints to Bullying UK show that most vicious gossip and rumours are spread by people who were once your best friends so it's best to keep secrets to yourself. Only tell people things if it wouldn't embarrass you if other people found out about them. Posting false and malicious things about people on the internet can be harassment.

Threats

Anyone who makes threats to you on the internet could be committing a criminal offence. It's against the law in the UK to use the phone system - which includes the internet - to cause alarm or distress.

It could also be against the 1997 Harassment Act. If threats are made against you then it's essential you tell your parents so that they can alert your school and make a complaint to the police.

If you can't print out the threats use the "print screen" button to take a snapshot of the computer screen and then save that in a word processing package or in your draft email folder. If you're not sure how to do this email Bullying UK and we'll show you how.

Blackmail

Bullying UK has had complaints from young people that new "friends" they have made on the internet have pressured them into taking their clothes off and filming themselves. Threats have been made that their parent will be told embarassing things if they don't take part.

This is an offence called "grooming" in the UK and men who have been found guilty of "grooming" have been jailed. Remember: everyone you meet on the internet is a stranger and you need to keep personal things personal to you, don't share your secrets with other people and if anyone asks you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable then don't do it.

If anyone you know on the internet puts pressure on you to do things you don't want to then that's a big danger sign and you need to tell your parents or an adult about it so that their behaviour can be investigated by an organisation like CEOP which looks after the safety of young people in cyber space. Even if all you know about the person is their email address the police can still find out who they are.

Abusive comments

It's tempting to have a go back if someone makes a rude posting on your webspace but don't. This is called flaming and it just makes the problem worse. Abusive comments are very upsetting but the best way to deal with them is to get them removed by the website. Find out how to remove comments for social networks like Bebo, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

Instant messaging

There are quite a few instant messaging systems, they're a great way to have a chat with a friend. MSN and Google are two of the best known ways to IM. But if things turn nasty you can block people from seeing you are on line and you can save abusive conversations or print them out as evidence.

Nasty pictures

It's easy to snap off pictures on a mobile phone and upload them to the internet. Make sure that you have the person's permission to take a picture and that they're happy for thousands of people to see it on the internet.

Don't upset people and then upload their pictures for other people to have a laugh. That could be harassment. Don't digitally alter pictures of people either because what you think is funny may be offensive to other people. Don't let anyone take pictures of you that might embarrass you.

Very important information

If you post abuse about anyone else on the internet, whether it's in places like Facebook or Ask.fm, in games forums or message boards, or if you send threats in chatrooms or on IM like MSN, you can be traced by the police without any difficulty.

Every time you visit a website or make a posting, your internet service provider, ie AOL, BT or Virgin, has an electronic note of your activity. Even if you create an anonymous email address like hotmail or yahoo, you can still be traced.

Don't forget

Nothing is secret in cyber space and something you write now might damage your job prospects in future because many employers search the internet before they take people on.

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers through Live Chat, email us or call our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums.  Family Lives is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

Listening, supportive and non-judgemental