​​​​​​​​​​​Online bull​ying

Online bullying is bullying carried out through the internet or mobile devices. Online bullying is also sometimes called cyberbullying.

It can happen to anyone, anytime, and can leave you feeling unsafe and distressed.

Online bullying can be offensive and upsetting.

Types of behaviour in online bullying

Online bullying can include:

  • sending insulting or threatening messages
  • posting unkind messages or inappropriate images on social networking sites
  • excluding others from online chats or other communication
  • inappropriate image tagging
  • sharing someone's personal or embarrassing information online
  • creating hate sites or starting social exclusion campaigns on social networking sites
  • sharing unflattering or private images, including naked or sexual images
  • assuming the identity of the another person online and representing them in a negative manner or manner that may damage their relationship with others
  • repeatedly, and for no strategic reason, attacking players in online gaming.

For it to be called bullying, inappropriate actions online must be between people who have ongoing contact and be part of a pattern of repeated behaviours​ (online or offline). Single incidents or random inappropriate actions are not bullying.

One action – such as an insulting comment or an embarrassing photo – which is repeated through sharing and forwarding to others, can be called bullying if the individuals involved know each other, and have ongoing contact either on or offline.

Online bullying has the potential to have social, psychological and educational impacts.

Illustration of online bullying via social mediaRead more about online safety and tips for students to deal with bullying online. Download the Cybersafety for students fact sheet (PDF, 63KB).

How online bullying is different from bullying in person

While online bullying involves similar behaviours to bullying in person, it also differs in the following ways:

  • it can be invasive and difficult to escape — it can happen at all hours and while at home
  • it can involve harmful material being widely and rapidly disseminated to a large audience, for example, rumours and images can be posted on public forums or sent to many people at once
  • it can provide the person doing the bullying with a sense of distance from the other person, so there is a lack of immediate feedback or consequences.

These important differences should not distract schools, parents and carers from the fact that online bullying is essentially the same as bullying in person.

In fact, research suggests that many students who are bullied online are also bullied in person. If a student reports online bullying, it is important to investigate further to get the full picture.

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