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Cyberbullying: what to do if you're being bullied online

How to deal with being bullied via text, online, social media, or gaming

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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What is cyberbullying?

Cyber bullying involves unwanted messages, images, audio or video sent by electronic means to threaten, abuse or harm someone. It's like physical or verbal bullying, but uses technology instead.

 Examples of cyberbullying

  • Abusive messages or slagging on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Offensive comments on videos or posts.
  • Spreading rumours online.
  • Hacking into your online accounts. 
  • Posting offensive images or posting doctored images of victims.

Why do people cyberbully?

  • They think it's fun.
  • They do it to get back at somebody they are mad at (common amongst friends after a 'trigger' event).
  • They feel bad about themselves.

Cyber bullying, according to some legal experts, is illegal under section 10 of the 1997 non-fatal offences against the person act. We are hoping the Minister for Justice can get clarity from the Attorney General on the current legal framework and how it is or can be applied. We welcome his decision to refer to the Law Reform Commission.

What to do about cyberbullying

How to avoid it

  • Never give out your passwords – always keep your passwords to yourself, and make a habit of logging out of your email or social networks when you're finished. Passwords should be made up of mixed characters and not made up of pet names or date of births. You should also have a different password for each account or service.
  • Restrict your privacy settings on Facebook to 'friends only', protect your tweets, hide your profile from the Facebook search engine, disable 'anonymous' questions in the settings on if you choose to use that particular website.
  • Learn how to block and report other profiles on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Pick your friends carefully – remember whatever you post online can be seen by everyone who's got access to your page. If it's Facebook, only accept friend requests from people with who you're comfortable about sharing information with and who you know in real life.
  • Be kind to other people online. Don't say anything hurtful to other users and ask yourself whether or not what you say online would be acceptable in a face-to-face discussion.
  • Don't send a message to someone else when you're angry – wait until you've calmed down and had time to think. Once you've sent it, you can't take it back.

How to tackle it as a victim

  • Don't reply to the messages, as much as you might want to. It will only make the problem worse. Bullies want to know that they've got you worried and upset. Letting them know they have been successful will only encourage them to continue.
  • If you’re worried or concerned about a piece of content that has been uploaded that you are in, contact a trusted adult or friend. You can also contact the provider where the image or video has been uploaded (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and ask for it to be removed.
  • Save the evidence, take a screenshot as proof.
  • Go offline. Logout or switch off your phone and talk to family or do something you enjoy.
  • Tell a trusted adult, such as a close relative, a family friend, a teacher, health professional or a youth worker or contact a free confidential support service such as Samaritans – telephone 1850 60 90 90. See our help services section.
  • Change your passwords, number, contacts details and make sure your privacy settings are restricted on all websites. Block and report the bullying to the technology providers such as the mobile phone company, web host or website owner. Check out our up-to-date factsheets on social media sites Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Askfm and ensure your privacy settings are correct..
  • Block anonymous questions on in your privacy settings if you decide to use the website.
  • In serious or persistent cases report the bullying to Gardaí yourself or through your parents.   
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Published Decem­ber 12th2012
Last updated March 20th2018
Tags cyber bullying bullying
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