How to report cyberbullying

No one deserves to be bullied online.

Often harmful online content can be removed by the site, game or app used to send it. But if they don’t, eSafety may be able to investigate and ask them to delete it. 

Even if we can’t investigate your case, we will still help you. We will check you are safe, give you tips to protect yourself and feel better, and help you get more support if you need it.

If you are a parent or carer, you can use the information on this page to help a child or young person deal with cyberbullying.

On this page:

What you can report

eSafety will only investigate harmful cyberbullying content if it was reported at least 48 hours ago to the service or platform used to send, post or share it. This is often the fastest way to have harmful content removed. The eSafety Guide explains how to report a complaint to common services and platforms, including social media sites, games and apps.

 

For eSafety to investigate, the harmful content has to target a specific child or young person under 18 years of age who lives in Australia. It must also meet the legal definition of ‘cyberbullying’.

This means the content sent to you, or posted or shared about you, must be likely to be harmful to your physical or mental health because it is seriously:

  • threatening or
  • intimidating or
  • harassing or 
  • humiliating.

The harm from the cyberbullying could be felt for a short time or last a long time.

The harmful content can be sent, posted or shared in many ways. For example, it can be a post, comment, text, message, chat, livestream, meme, image, video or email. It can use:

  • a social media service
  • a relevant electronic service such as an email service, chat service, instant messaging service or an online game where users can contact each other, or
  • a designated internet service such as a website.

Find out more about what cyberbullying is and how it is defined under the Online Safety Act 2021.

Examples

These are some examples of cyberbullying that are likely to be serious enough for eSafety to investigate:

  • Seriously threatening – when someone says they are going to harm you, or tells others to harm you. For example, a message saying ‘If you tell the teacher I cheated I’ll post your address and phone number all over the internet and tell people you’re a snitch and to go and bash you.’
  • Seriously intimidating – when you stop doing something because someone makes you feel scared or bad about it. For example, a comment on a post saying ‘ur so unco you don’t belong in our team. that’s why we always lose when you play. Quit or you’ll get what’s coming to you.’
  • Seriously harassing – when someone keeps sending you messages or sharing content about you even though you don’t want them to. Each message or post may not be very bad on its own, but all together they are really upsetting. For example, someone sends you memes every day saying things like ‘Loser!’, ‘Waste of space’, ‘Do the world a favour and get lost’. 
  • Seriously humiliating – when someone posts a really embarrassing comment, image or video to make fun of you. For example, someone shares a reel of kids teasing you for crying because you slipped over in mud, with a caption like ‘Look at this loser! What a big baby! No wonder everyone hates them.’

 

Who can report

A complaint can be reported to eSafety by the child or young person who was targeted by the cyberbullying. Or they can ask a trusted adult to report it for them, such as a parent, carer, teacher or police officer. The child or young person must live in Australia (but they can be on an overseas holiday at the time). 

A parent or guardian can also report serious cyberbullying to eSafety themselves, if they know their child has been targeted by harmful content.

What if the person targeted by the cyberbullying is now aged 18?

A person who turned 18 up to 6 months ago can report a complaint about cyberbullying to eSafety, if they do it soon after finding out the harmful content was posted or shared.

People who are 18 or older may be able to report an adult cyber abuse complaint if they have been targeted by seriously harmful content and the service or platform did not help them.

Checklist

This checklist will help you work out if eSafety can investigate what happened to you.

  • The person targeted: A child or young person under 18 who lives in Australia.
  • How bad it has to be: It must be likely to harm the physical or mental health of a child or young person because it makes them feel seriously threatened, seriously intimidated, seriously harassed or seriously humiliated.
  • When to report it to eSafety: When the harmful content was reported to the site, game or app at least 48 hours ago, but they did not remove it. 
  • Who can report it: The child or young person who was targeted by the cyberbullying or an adult they have asked for help, or the parent or guardian of the child or young person.
  • Possible outcomes
    • The site, game or app removes the harmful content.
    • The site, game or app is sent a fine or penalty if they don’t remove the harmful content.
    • The person who did the cyberbullying is told not to do it anymore.
    • The person who did the cyberbullying is told to say sorry. 

Steps to report cyberbullying

If you are being cyberbullied it’s a good idea to tell a trusted adult, like a parent, carer or teacher. Ask them to help you report it – you could show them this page then follow the steps together.


  1. Collect evidence

    You might feel like deleting the harmful content as soon as you can, but don’t do it yet! First you need to get some proof, to show what happened and where.

    Things to screenshot or copy down

    • What the content says or shows
    • The user profile of the person who sent, posted or shared it
    • The date and time it was sent, posted or shared
    • The name of the site, game or app
    • The online address of the page or feed (URL) 

    Find out more about how to collect evidence.
     


  2. Report harmful content

    Report the harmful content to the site, game or app used to send, post or share it – you can find links to the common ones in The eSafety Guide. This is often the fastest way to have the harmful content removed. 

    If the cyberbullying is very serious and the site, game or app does not help you within 48 hours, you can report the harmful content to eSafety using our online form. We will ask you for proof of the cyberbullying and to show that you have already reported it to the site, game or app. 

    You can also report the abuse to the police – this is often the safest thing to do if someone is threatening you or your family or friends. 
     


  3. Prevent further contact

    Try not to respond or hit back. People who say hurtful things often do it just to get a reaction, so if you show it worked they may do it again.

    You can use the in-app functions to ignore, mute or block the other person or account. If they bully you from a new online account, mute or block them again. The eSafety Guide explains how.

    You can also change your privacy settings to stop someone contacting you or seeing what you are doing and where you are going. The eSafety Guide tells you how.
     


  4. Get more help

    Cyberbullying can make you feel bad. Lots of people say the harmful content makes them angry, sad, embarrassed, hurt, worried, scared or stressed. The harm may be felt for a short time or last a long time.

    It can be hard to ask for help, but talking about the cyberbullying with a trusted adult like a parent, carer or teacher can make you feel better. If that does not feel right, you can talk to someone at Kids Helpline by phone or chat – they help 5 to 25 year olds and it’s free. Or you can contact another counselling or support service.
     

What eSafety does next

When you report cyberbullying to eSafety we: 

  • check you are safe
  • look at your proof 
  • ask you more questions

If what happened to you was against Australia’s online safety laws we can:

  • ask the site, game or app to remove the harmful content 
  • if we can identify them, tell the person who sent or shared it to say sorry and not to do it again.

If what happened to you was NOT against online safety laws, we will still check you are safe, give you tips to protect yourself and feel better, and help you get more support if you need it.

Find out more about the full range of actions eSafety can take by reading about the Cyberbullying Scheme.
 

Answers to more common questions

Most times we get back to you in less than two full working days. We don’t work on weekends, so if you report a complaint on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday you may not hear from us until the following week. 

If you are in danger right now, contact the police on Triple Zero (000).

If you need to talk to someone right now, contact Kids Helpline by phone or chat.
 

You can report cyberbullying even if you don’t know who sent, posted or shared the harmful content. We can still ask the site, app or game to remove it.

Yes. The only way we can help remove harmful content is if we know who it is about.

We are very careful with your report. We only tell people who have to know about it so we can help you. 

We can ask the site, app or game to remove the harmful content, even if we don’t contact the person who sent, posted or shared it.

But if we think we need to contact the other person to get them to stop the cyberbullying, we may have to say who reported them – so first we will check that’s OK with you. We may also need to give the other person a chance to tell their side of the story.
 

If the content that was sent, posted or shared about you was against Australia’s online safety laws, we can ask the site, game or app to remove it.

We can also do these things:

  • Tell the person who cyberbullied you that they have to stop doing it.
  • Tell the person who cyberbullied you that they have to say sorry to you.
  • Report the person who cyberbullied you to the site, game or app, who could delete their account. 
  • Tell your school, if we think they can help stop the person cyberbullying you – most times we will check with you if that’s OK. 
  • Tell the police, if we think they need to help you stay safe.  
     

If you are 14 or less we will ask you to give us contact details for a parent or guardian when you fill out our report form. This is so they can help stop the cyberbullying and make sure you are safe. 

Most times we will check if you are OK about us speaking with a parent or guardian. But if you are in danger we may need to contact them even if you do not say we can.

If your parent or guardian reports the cyberbullying, we will contact them.
 

If you are still at school, we may ask for you to tell us their contact details.

Your school may be able to help stop the cyberbullying if the person who sent, posted or shared the harmful content goes to the same school as you. The school may also set up counselling, to help you feel better.

Most times we will check if you are OK about us speaking to your school. But if you are in danger we may need to contact them even if you do not say we can.
 

We are allowed to tell the police if we think you are in danger, so they can help to stop the cyberbullying and keep you safe.

In some cases you can ask for a legal review, if eSafety decides not to ask a site, game or app to remove content that you think is harmful. 

Find out more about review rights, including who can seek a review.
 

Report cyberbullying to eSafety

If the cyberbullying is very serious, and the service or platform does not help you within 48 hours, you can report the harmful content to eSafety using our online form.

Report now