What do you do when you see bullying online
It’s important to take action if you see someone being bullied
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
When bullying happens online, it is often called cyberbullying. This involves receiving unwanted messages, images, audio or video meant to threaten, abuse or harm someone.
Cyberbullying can include a number of things, including:
- Sending, sharing, or posting hurtful or abusive messages
- Posting embarrassing videos or pictures of someone (without their consent)
- Tagging someone inappropriately in a photo/video
- Spreading rumours online
- Threatening someone online
- Deliberately excluding others from certain activities online such as group chats
- Trolling someone, which is when someone says mean things to start an argument
If someone is being cyberbullied, it can be a very upsetting and painful experience.
Because the internet is on nearly all our phones and tablets it travels with us, so cyberbullying is a type of bullying that invades our personal space and can reach a large audience.
Find out what to do if you are being cyberbullied.
What to do when you see bullying online
If you see someone being bullied online, it’s important to speak up and act. The more you do, the more other people will do the same.
Say something to the bully
Depending on what both you and the person being bullied are comfortable with, you can send a message privately to the bully. There is a chance they don’t realise how harmful their behaviour is, and they could just see it as banter, so pointing it out to them can be helpful.
You can let them know that their behaviour is unacceptable and that they need to stop or you will report them. If they do not stop immediately, go ahead and report it.
When you see something online that you think is bullying, report it. On most platforms, reporting is quick and easy to do, but it can make a big difference. If the platform decides behaviour/comments are against their community guidelines they can take action on it. This could mean sending the user a warning, deleting the post or comment, suspending their account, or removing their account entirely.
Some social media platforms will also let you report a person’s profile for spreading hateful or inappropriate things if the cyberbullying is coming repeatedly from one source.
Reporting is anonymous, so the person won’t know that you’ve reported them.
Tell someone you trust if you are seeing cyberbullying. The person experiencing the cyberbullying might not have told anyone, and their family, teachers, or friends might not know what is going on. Talking to someone you trust means they can help you to support your friend.
Remember if someone is in danger of getting hurt it’s important to make sure an adult knows what’s going on. This is the best way to support them.
Reach out to the person being bullied
Being the victim of cyberbullying can be a very isolating experience. The person can often feel like they have no one to talk to or share how they’re feeling with.
If you know the person, let them know you care about them and that you don’t agree with what’s happening. They might or might not want to share how they’re feeling with you, and that’s okay.
If you don’t know the person but still feel it’s appropriate, you can also send them a message of support. They will probably appreciate it.
It also could be the case that someone is being bullied through private messages, and they reach out to you and ask you not to tell anyone. However, telling someone you trust is the best way you can help them find the support they need.
Help collect evidence
You can also help the person who’s being cyberbullied by taking screenshots of hurtful or abusive comments. That way, if the bully deletes the comment, you will have evidence of the bullying if you or the other person needs it.
Remember, there are a lot of different levels to deal with in cyberbullying, including things you have no control over (for example what the platform will do) and sometimes addressing it can feel overwhelming. But always remember acting to help in whatever way you can is better than doing nothing, and by doing so hopefully, other people will follow your example.
Feeling overwhelmed and want to talk to someone?
- Get anonymous support 24/7 with our text message support service
- Connect with a trained volunteer who will listen to you, and help you to move forward feeling better
- Free-text SPUNOUT to 50808 to begin
- Find out more about our text message support service
If you are a customer of the 48 or An Post network or cannot get through using the ‘50808’ short code please text HELLO to 086 1800 280 (standard message rates may apply). Some smaller networks do not support short codes like ‘50808’.