Cyberbullying: What is it and how to stop it (Part 1)
What teens want to know about cyberbullying.
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We brought together UNICEF specialists, international cyberbullying and child protection experts, and teamed up with Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter to answer some of the most common questions about online bullying and give advice on ways to deal with it.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is bullying with the use of digital technologies. It can take place on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms and mobile phones. It is repeated behaviour, aimed at scaring, angering or shaming those who are targeted. Examples include:
- spreading lies about or posting embarrassing photos or videos of someone on social media
- sending hurtful, abusive or threatening messages, images or videos via messaging platforms
- impersonating someone and sending mean messages to others on their behalf or through fake accounts.
Face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying can often happen alongside each other. But cyberbullying leaves a digital footprint – a record that can prove useful and provide evidence to help stop the abuse.
If you are worried about your safety or something that has happened to you online, you can seek help by calling your national helpline. If your country does not have a helpline, please urgently speak to an adult you trust or seek professional support from trained and experienced carers.
1. Am I being bullied online? How do you tell the difference between a joke and bullying?
All friends joke around with each other, but sometimes it’s hard to tell if someone is just having fun or trying to hurt you, especially online. Sometimes they’ll laugh it off with a “just kidding,” or “don’t take it so seriously.”
But if you feel hurt or think others are laughing at you instead of with you, then the joke has gone too far. If it continues even after you’ve asked the person to stop and you are still feeling upset about it, then this could be bullying.
And when the bullying takes place online, it can result in unwanted attention from a wide range of people including strangers. Wherever it may happen, if you are not happy about it, you should not have to stand for it.
Call it what you will – if you feel bad and it doesn’t stop, then it’s worth getting help. Stopping cyberbullying is not just about calling out bullies, it’s also about recognizing that everyone deserves respect – online and in real life.
2. What are the effects of cyberbullying?
When bullying happens online it can feel as if you’re being attacked everywhere, even inside your own home. It can seem like there’s no escape. The effects can last a long time and affect a person in many ways:
- Mentally – feeling upset, embarrassed, stupid, even afraid or angry
- Emotionally – feeling ashamed or losing interest in the things you love
- Physically – tired (loss of sleep), or experiencing symptoms like stomach aches and headaches
The feeling of being laughed at or harassed by others, can prevent people from speaking up or trying to deal with the problem. In extreme cases, cyberbullying can even lead to people taking their own lives.
Cyberbullying can affect us in many ways. But these can be overcome and people can regain their confidence and health.
3. How can cyberbullying affect my mental health?
When you experience cyberbullying you might start to feel ashamed, nervous, anxious and insecure about what people say or think about you. This can lead to withdrawing from friends and family, negative thoughts and self-talk, feeling guilty about things you did or did not do, or feeling that you are being judged negatively. Feeling lonely, overwhelmed, frequent headaches, nausea or stomachaches are also common.
You can lose your motivation to do the things that you usually enjoy doing and feel isolated from the people you love and trust. This can perpetuate negative feelings and thoughts which can adversely affect your mental health and well-being.
Skipping school is another common effect of cyberbullying and can affect the mental health of young people who turn to substances like alcohol and drugs or violent behaviour to deal with their psychological and physical pain. Talking to a friend, family member or school counsellor you trust can be a first step to getting help.
The effects of cyberbullying on mental health can vary depending on the medium through which it happens. For example, bullying via text messaging or through pictures or videos on social media platforms has proven to be very harmful for adolescents.
Cyberbullying opens the door to 24-hour harassment and can be very damaging. That’s why we offer in-app mental health and well-being support through our feature “Here For You.” This Snapchat portal provides resources on mental health, grief, bullying, harassment, anxiety, eating disorders, depression, stress, and suicidal thoughts. It was developed in partnership with leading international advocacy and mental health organizations to help Snapchatters contend with some very real issues.
At Snap, nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our community. Reach out and tell us how we might be able to help.
Cyberbullying has the potential of having a negative impact on people's mental health. It's why it's so important that you reach out to someone you trust – whether it's a parent, teacher, friend or caregiver – and let them know what you're going through so that they can help you.
The well-being of our community matters hugely to us, and we recognise that cyberbullying can have an adverse impact on people's mental health. As well as taking strong action against content or behaviour that seeks to shame, bully or harass members of our community, we have partnered with experts to develop our well-being guide to help people learn more about improving their well-being, and keep TikTok a safe and inclusive home for our community.
4. Who should I talk to if someone is bullying me online? Why is reporting important?
If you think you’re being bullied, the first step is to seek help from someone you trust such as your parents, a close family member or another trusted adult.
In your school you can reach out to a counsellor, the sports coach or your favourite teacher – either online or in person.
And if you are not comfortable talking to someone you know, search for a helpline in your country to talk to a professional counsellor.
If the bullying is happening on a social platform, consider blocking the bully and formally reporting their behaviour on the platform itself. Social media companies are obligated to keep their users safe.
For bullying to stop, it needs to be identified and reporting it is key.
It can be helpful to collect evidence – text messages and screen shots of social media posts – to show what’s been going on.
For bullying to stop, it needs to be identified and reporting it is key. It can also help to show the bully that their behaviour is unacceptable.
If you are in immediate danger, then you should contact the police or emergency services in your country.
There is no place for bullying and harassment of any kind on Facebook or Instagram. It is against our policies to create an account, post photos, or make comments for the purpose of bullying or harassing someone else.
If you are experiencing bullying online, we encourage you to talk to a parent, teacher or someone else you can trust – you have a right to be safe and supported.
We also make it easy to report bullying directly within Facebook or Instagram. You can send our team a report from a post, comment, story or direct message. Your report is anonymous; the account you reported won’t see who reported them. We have a team who reviews these reports 24/7 around the world in 70+ languages and we will remove anything that violates our policies.
Meta’s Family Center offers resources, insights and expert guidance to help parents, guardians and trusted adults support their teen’s online experiences across our technologies. For Facebook, we have resources that can help you deal with bullying – or understand what to do if you see someone else being bullied. For Instagram, you can learn more about our safety and anti-bullying features on our website.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and to be treated with respect and dignity. Bullying and harassment are incompatible with the inclusive environment we aim to foster on TikTok.
If you ever feel someone is bullying you or otherwise being inappropriate, reach out to someone you trust - for example, a parent, a teacher or a caregiver – who can provide support.
We deploy both technology and thousands of safety professionals to help keep bullying off TikTok. We also encourage our community members to make use of the easy in-app reporting tools to alert us if they or someone they know has experienced bullying. You can report videos, comments, accounts and direct messages so that we can take appropriate action and help keep you safe. Reports are always confidential.
You can find out more in our Bullying Prevention guide for teens, caregivers, and educators on how to identify and prevent bullying, and provide support.
Being the target of bullying online is not easy to deal with. If you are being cyberbullied, the most important thing to do is to ensure you are safe. It’s essential to have someone to talk to about what you are going through. This may be a teacher, another trusted adult, or a parent. Talk to your parents and friends about what to do if you or a friend are being cyberbullied.
We encourage people to report accounts to us that may break our rules. You can do this on our Help Center or through the in-Tweet reporting mechanism by clicking on the “Report a Tweet” option.
Last updated: January 2022.