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Cyberbullying

Young people are being bullied online right now. Understanding what to do about it can help stop the harm it causes.

This page is about online bullying affecting people under the age of 18. We also offer advice for adults experiencing online abuse.

What does cyberbullying look like?

Cyberbullying behaviour might include:

  • abusive texts and emails
  • hurtful messages, images or videos
  • imitating others online
  • excluding others online
  • humiliating others online
  • spreading nasty online gossip and chat
  • creating fake accounts to trick someone or humiliate them

How common is it?

In the 12 months to June 2017:

1 in 5 Australian young people reported being socially excluded, threatened or abused online

55% sought help from their parents, 28% from their friends; 38% blocked the offending social media account; 12% reported it to the website or platform

1 in 5 Australian young people (15% of kids, 24% of teens) admitted behaving in a negative way to a peer online — such as calling them names, deliberately excluding them, or spreading lies or rumours. Of these, more than 90% had had a negative online experience themselves.

What can I do?

Learn how to protect yourself and your family, and what to do if you or someone you know is experiencing cyberbullying.

Advice for young people

Advice for parents and carers

Signs to watch for

Children may not always tell adults about cyberbullying through fear they may overreact and make the situation worse. 

Watch for these signs:

  • being upset after using the internet or their mobile phone
  • changes in personality, becoming more withdrawn, anxious, sad or angry 
  • appearing more lonely or distressed 
  • unexpected changes in friendship groups 
  • a decline in their school work 
  • changes in their sleep patterns 
  • avoidance of school or clubs 
  • a decline in their physical health 
  • becoming secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use

What can schools do?

Schools and teachers play a vital role in promoting the social and emotional development and wellbeing of Australian children and young people. This includes protecting students from cyberbullying and giving them the skills to deal with bullying experiences.

  • Build cyberbullying and online safety into the curriculum. eSafety offers classroom resources that come with cyberbullying lesson plans and video resources.
  • Include cyberbullying strategies in school online safety policies 
  • Support any student experiencing cyberbullying to report the bullying material to the relevant social media service. If the service fails to remove it, help them report it to eSafety.
  • Ensure every student, particularly those at risk, has a staff member who they feel connected to and activities that they can feel a part of. It is very important that they feel valued as a member of the school community.
  • Encourage all students to be ‘upstanders’ by safely speaking up and telling teachers and other adults if they see or hear of cyberbullying.
  • Refer any student with social, academic or mental health difficulties to student support services.

Video resources

#GameOn short film

#GameOn is an eSafety video following the online experiences of a group of lower secondary students who find themselves in situations that catch them off-guard and teach them the consequences of making poor decisions online.

Tagged short film

What happens when a group of high-school friends post an online rumour about a rival.
Visual

This video is a dramatic scenario used to provoke thought about displaying personal resilience while online. It features a teenage female locking herself in a bathroom to avoid four female peers. The females are played by actors.

Stacey runs down an alley, pursued by a group of girls.

Stacey runs into a community centre bathroom and locks the door of her stall just as a youth worker exits the second stall

Veronica, the group leader, pushes the bathroom door open but stops abruptly when she sees the youth worker at the sink. She turns and exits.

Stacey’s phone pings with a message notification.

The girls stand outside on their phones, texting Stacey.

Stacey’s phone pings repeatedly, with the texts popping up in conversation bubbles around her, reading “feelin @ home in the toilet w/all the other scum??” and “ur the reason deodorant exists” amongst them

As the notifications stream in rapidly, Stacey gets increasingly agitated. She begins to cry and puts her hands over her ears to block the text sounds.

A mid shot of Veronica, relentlessly texting.Stacey brings her hands down and stares at the wall, her attention grabbed by a graffiti quote that says “THEY DON’T WRITE YOUR STORY...YOU DO.”

Stacey stares at the quote, its meaning sinking in.

Veronica and her group enter the community centre, heading for the bathroom.

Stacey opens the bathroom door and faces Veronica.

Veronica stops in disbelief.Stacey walks past them, head held high and exits the community centre with the group following her.

The group heckle Stacey who walks on, unaffected

The music builds as Stacey puts on her headphones, drowning out the insults. She walks on, a small smile on her face

Logo shows the Australian coat of arms above the words Australian Government, and the eSafety Commissioner with the web address esafety.gov.au

The power to bounce back

Resilience is emotional strength.

How to report cyberbullying to eSafety

If you are under 18 (or are reporting on behalf of someone under 18) you can make a complaint about cyberbullying to eSafety. We can take action to get serious cyberbullying material removed, and provide advice, support and assistance.

Report

Helplines

Kids Helpline

5 to 25 year olds. All issues. Confidential phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 8am to 12am EST daily.

Headspace

12 to 25 year olds. All issues. Phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 9am to 1am EST daily.

Support services