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Cyberbullying and online harassment advice

Cyberbullying - Information and advice for victims of online bullying or harassment

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Cyberbullying is bullying and harassment using technology. This includes trolling, mobbing, stalking, grooming or any form of abuse online. Cyberbullying is most certainly on the increase - more and more cases are being reported to our helpline by children and by extremely worried parents.


Over half of the UK's 12 to 15 year olds have faced some form of bullying, including Cyberbullying over the last year. Research by the National Centre for Social Research found that 47% of young people reported being bullied at the age of 14. The same study showed that girls are more likely to be bullied, than boys, in that same age group.


We are focusing on this very serious issue and we are working closely with The Police, Facebook and other IT service providers, to work towards eliminating this unacceptable behaviour. If you are a parent, take positive steps to protect your child when he or she uses a mobile phone or the computer. There is a great deal you can do to safeguard your child.


We have been using the terminology ‘eCRIME’ for many years now because we believe it describes all forms of on-line abuse. Already the Police and others are adopting the term eCRIME when they talk about Cyberbullying.

The Association of Chief Police Officers

National Policing Lead for ACPO Communication Advisory Group Chief Constable Andy Trotter said: “People may think they can remain anonymous when they are online, that they can hide, say and do things they wouldn’t dream of doing in real life without consequences or being found out; this is not the case.


Reports of credible threats and communications made over social media that specifically target an individual and constitute harassment will be taken very seriously by the police and investigated. Please call your local police force on 101 if you think you are being harassed or threatened online.”

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying online and any form of anti-social behaviour over the internet or via a mobile device. It is an attack or abuse, using technology, which is intended to cause another person harm, distress or personal loss.


Forums and tools used often vary and include a range of electronic devices often linked to forums or chat rooms.  The tool may be a computer or laptop, a mobile phone, a camera or recording device, a tablet or games-console or simply email or mobile text messaging. Typically, the bullies use Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and other interactive forums to target an individual or group. Some examples of cyberbullying can include:


  • Spreading malicious and abusive rumours and gossiping
  • Emailing or texting you with threatening or intimidating remarks
  • Mobbing (a group or gang that target you)
  • Harassing you repeatedly
  • Intimidation and blackmail
  • Stalking you on-line and continually harassing you
  • Posting embarrassing or humiliating images or video’s without your consent
  • Posting your private details on-line without consent
  • General Bullying or Stalking
  • Grooming (enticing or goading you on-line to self-harm or commit a crime)
  • Setting up a false profile, Identity fraud or identity theft
  • Using gaming sites to attack or bully you
  • Theft, Fraud or deception over the internet

Someone you know is bullying you online

If someone has posted false, malicious or private things about you online and you believe the bully is someone you know or used to be friends with, this can be very distressing. In some cases, photographs, images or unkind comments are being posted on-line without your consent by someone you know, or once knew.


This guide will help you understand what you can do and how to persuade the perpetrator to stop bullying you. It contains sample letters which will help you strategies your case and deal with matters moving forward.

Someone you know is bullying you

When should you take action against Cyberbullying?

Without doubt, ever-changing technology is driving the need for the introduction of new tougher, clearer, legislation to protect targets of cyberbullying. We are already seeing changes in law linked to Cyberbullying but more must be done. Having said that, their are laws in place that can protect you if you are being cyberbullied. When should you take action and what can you do to protect yourself.


If you see something inappropriate.

If you ever come across anything on the internet that makes you feel uncomfortable, no matter where it is, please report it.


If someone spreads rumours about you

If someone has posted false and malicious things about you on the internet or on a social networking site, it may be regarded as harassment.  Harassment, on or off line, is a crime under UK laws. This can be very distressing. Anything nasty posted about you can be seen by lots of people, very quickly, because it's so public and because the bullies make sure they tell everyone where to find the abuse. The bullies know this. These bullies are cowards as they hide behind the technology to bully others !


Increasingly common are complaints that the spreading of malicious rumours and vicious gossip is being carried out by a person who was once your best friend. So chose your friends carefully.  Be careful what you tell your friends. Keep your own secrets to yourself. Only tell people things if it wouldn't embarrass you if other people found out about it.


If you are being threatened

It's against the law in the UK to use the phone system - which includes the internet - to cause alarm or distress. It could even be against the 1997 Harassment Act. If threats are made against you then it's essential that you alert someone you trust, or call a helpline or contact the Police.  If someone is threatening you on the internet, or threatening someone you know, they could be committing a criminal offence.


Try to get documentary evidence if you can. By pressing the ‘print screen’ button, you should be able to print of a hard copy of the threatening text or images. Place it in a safe place, both on and off line.


If you are being blackmailed

UK and even worldwide, helplines receive increasingly regular, disturbing, calls from adults and young people who say they have met a person over the internet, who calls themselves a friend, but who pressurises them into taking their clothes off and filming themselves.  These so called friends then post the images on-line worldwide ! These strangers then blackmail their target (YOU). In the UK this behaviour is a criminal offence – as indeed blackmail is and should be reported.



Do not allow yourself to be intimidated into taking part in unacceptable behaviour over the internet, by someone on line who you do not know. Simply do not participate in something you feel uncomfortable about. Just refuse. Say NO!


These are not true friends. They are NOT the sort of people you want to be associated with, frankly. They may even threaten you saying that if you do not do exactly what they say, they will contact your family and/or friends and tell lies about you. They are unlikely to do this. This is just to frighten you into doing what they want you to do! Don’t fall for it!


This behaviour is a serious criminal offence called "grooming". Men who have been found guilty of "grooming" have been sent to jail. You wouldn’t get into a car with a stranger, would you?  No! So, don’t fall for this trick. If you, or someone you know, is being groomed on-line by a stranger – report it immediately to someone you trust. Do not hesitate to call an expert or report the matter to the Police. The Police are now able to get information from your computer's hard drive but it would be helpful if you did not delete anything that might be useful evidence of the grooming.


If someone posts inappropriate pictures of you

We all know how easy it is to snap a picture on a camera or mobile phone and then post it up on Facebook or on the internet. Yes, isn’t technology simply amazing. It is also a minefield of corruption and danger!


Don't let anyone take pictures of you that might embarrass you. If someone has posted an inappropriate picture of you, ask them to remove or take it down If this is not an option then the forum used to display the image will if you contact them. If you are the one that's posting images, make sure that you have a person's permission to take a picture of them for posting on-line, before you proceed. Once it has been posted thousands of people can see it on the internet. Don’t offend others.


Don't hurt someone you care about by uploading their picture, for others to have a laugh at. That could be considered harassment and harassment is against the law in the UK. Don't digitally alter pictures of people either because what you might think is funny, may be offensive to other people.

Bullies are Cowards

Often, bullies using one of more of the forums named above to abuse an individual anonymously. They are too frightened to let you know who they are or face their target. Classic cowards. Classic bullying.

Law and legislation covering cyberbullying and online harassment

Bullying does not discriminate, we are all potential targets. No one person is immune to Cyberbullying either, both individuals and organisations may be susceptible to Cyberbullying which targets an individual or an organisation. We are hearing about some very serious cases of on-line abuse associated with the workplace. APP’S are being used to stalk a person (SPYWARE for example), or place a person under surveillance without their knowledge or consent.


Cyberbullying at work is an increasing, very serious, problem that business owners and managers are struggling with. It is reported that bullying in the workplace costs UK employers in excess of £2bn per annum in litigation, investigation costs, lost productivity and sick pay.  We think the figure is probably higher. If a person is committing and act of Cyberbullying they may be committing a criminal offence under a number of different laws. The Law is changing all the time and this Inappropriate use of technology is driving an urgent need for new, sharper, enforceable, laws.


We are campaigning currently to get all laws combined to make a stronger piece of legislation to address all forms of eCRIME.  Celebrity, Katie Price, called on Government to introduce a cyberbullying law to be named after her son, HARVEY.  She is calling for new eCRIME legislation to be called HARVEYS LAW. Whilst we commend Katie for speaking out, and any campaigning is good in terms of raising awareness, we would like to see new, stronger, legislation called The eCRIME ACT.


New legislation

The eCRIME ACT should embrace Future on-line crime including sabotage of business to business using technology, any inappropriate surveillance & the application of any nuisance App with intent to cause anxiety, distress or harm. Below is some of the current legislation that covers areas closely associated with eCRIME and Cyberbullying.


  • The Protection from Harassment Act
  • The Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • The Communications Act 2003
  • Obscene Publications Act 1959
  • Computer Misuse Act 1990
  • Cyberbullying in the Workplace.
  • Health and Safety and Duty of Care laws

Cyberbullying involving hacking and blackmail

As technology evolves and becomes increasingly complex we will all experience cyberbullying at some point. An issue for us all is the prospect of having our email or computer hacked and locked-down. The hacking is very often followed by blackmail in the form of a ransom note. You may have received an email claiming to have personal images of you with instructions to pay an amount of money to prevent them from becoming public. We cannot stop these ruthless individuals from attempting to hack us but we can take steps to protect ourselves.

Hacking and Blackmail

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Call the National Bullying Helpline on

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0845 22 55 787

Open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday