The facts about cyberbullying

‘Cyberbullying’ means using digital technology to bully others by sending or posting abusive or degrading messages, emails, photographs or videos. It can happen anywhere and at any time. It hurts! Below are some key facts about cyberbullying. Some of them may shock you!

  • About 29% of Year 9 students are cyberbullied.
  • Cyberbullying tends to increase with age.
  • Nearly 20% of Year 8 students report they were deliberately ignored or left out of things on the internet.
  • 20% of Year 9 students reported receiving nasty text messages or prank calls to their mobile phones.
  • However, almost 90% of young people do not find websites that make fun of other students funny.

What’s more, cyberbullying could even have a greater impact than face-to-face bullying because …

  • 83% of young people who are bullied online are also bullied offline.
  • 41% of young people report that it is easier to bully over the internet or via text than face to face.
  • You can be bullied anytime you are online or using your phone.
  • Hurtful messages can be sent or viewed over and over again by many different people.
  • People who cyberbully tend to be much nastier when they bully online.

Back to top

Top tips for online safety

  • Travelling around online is a little like travelling around offline. You need to think about your online safety. Your loved ones will want to know where you have been and for how long.
  • Chat regularly with your family about technology and how each of you are using it. Be interested in each other’s online adventures. Share websites of interest with your family and spend time visiting these sites so you have some knowledge of each other’s online travels.
  • Stay safe and well-supported online by using technology in shared spaces in your house, not in private areas like your bedroom.
  • Suggest that your family come up with an agreement that outlines the acceptable and safe use of technology. Each family member needs to have input into the agreement and all technologies should be discussed.
  • Making friends is a great feeling, but don’t forget that people can pretend to be whomever they want online. For this reason, it is much safer to only have online friends who you also know offline.
  • If you do agree to meet up in person with someone you have met online, it’s really important that you take the following precautions to ensure your safety:
    • Arrange to meet somewhere with other people around, like a shopping centre or cafe.
    • Bring a friend with you.
    • Let an adult know where you are going, who is going with you and when you will be back.
    • Have your mobile phone within reach, fully charged and topped up with credit.
  • To protect your privacy online, be sure to change passwords regularly! Never share your password with anyone (other than family members if this is part of your technology agreement).
  • It is your responsibility to monitor and manage your digital reputation. Regularly search your name online. Put your name in quotation marks (for example, “Jane Smith”) for a more specific search.
  • What you put online stays there forever, so think carefully before you post. Treat others how you would like them to treat you, both online and offline.
  • If you are saying or doing things online or offline you know are not right, ask for help. Have a friend or adult help you find better ways to express how you are feeling.
  • Finally, here’s what Year 10 students told us works if they are being cyberbullied:
    • Save the evidence.
    • Block the person who is cyberbullying you.
    • Make sure that your social networking site is set to friends-only.
    • Ask for advice from a friend about how to deal with the cyberbullying.

Back to top

How to report cyberbullying

Reporting cyberbullying via email, phone or instant message

Unfortunately, it can be tricky to report content from emails, instant messages or text messages. If you are being bullied via mobile phone, email or chat, it is really important that you save the evidence. Below are some ways of saving messages so you aren’t tempted to keep re-reading them:

  • Download and print the message.
  • Take a photo or screenshot of the message and store the photo, or send it to a friend.

Once your evidence is saved, the best thing you can do is tell a trusted adult, like a parent or teacher. They can guide you on how to deal with the situation.

Reporting cyberbullying on websites and social networks

Most websites and social networks have ‘report’ buttons where you can let the moderation team know there is a problem. There is no guarantee that anything will be removed, but look at it this way – it certainly won’t be removed if you don’t tell anyone!

You can also report bad stuff on the internet to ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority). However, they can only help if the content falls into the categories below:

  • content classified as RC or X 18+ (includes child pornography, violence or drug use)
  • content classified R 18+ or MA 15+ and not subject to a restricted access system

Reporting cyberbullying to the police

Do you think the bullying you are experiencing breaks the law? If you are unsure, phone the police on 13 444, explain to them what’s going on and ask for help. You could also ask a trusted adult to contact the police on your behalf.

Back to top

Cyberbullying and the law

The law is very complex, but it is important for you to understand that if you do the wrong thing in cyberspace there are consequences. Here are two real-life cases that demonstrate the possible legal consequences of cyberbullying in Australia:

  • 17-year-old Melburnian Allem Halkic committed suicide in 2009 after receiving threatening messages and texts from a former friend. The offender, 21-year-old Shane Gerada, pleaded guilty to stalking and received 200 hours of community service.
  • Ravshan Usmanov, a 20-year-old man from New South Wales, was sentenced to six months in prison in 2012 after posting nude photos of his ex-girlfriend on Facebook without her consent.

In Australia, children can be considered ‘criminally liable’ from 10 years of age. You can get into big trouble if you break laws that fall under the following categories:

  • defamation (e.g. spreading false rumours online)
  • child pornography (e.g. sending nude photos of yourself or another person under 18)
  • stalking (e.g. using technology to threaten, harass or intimidate someone)
  • accessory to a crime (e.g. posting photos or videos of criminal activities such as underage drinking)
  • assault (e.g. sending threatening messages)

Don’t forget that the police have the skills to retrieve everything you post online and anything you send or receive on your mobile. According to the Commonwealth law, it may not matter how many times you have contacted a person, meaning that a single threatening text message could be a crime for which the maximum penalty is 3–10 years in prison!

If you want more examples and advice about cyberbullying and the law in your state, check out Lawstuff – a great website that provides legal information to children and young people in Australia. If you are personally experiencing cyberbullying that you think may be a crime, contact the police on 13 444 for advice.

Back to top

Places to get help

If you need to talk to someone right now, here are some places you can call:

  • Kids Helpline
    1800 55 1800
    Kids Helpline offers 24-hour counselling services for young people aged 5–25 years. Counselling is available by phone (free call from a landline), email and over the web.

  • Lifeline
    13 11 14
    Lifeline provides 24-hour counselling services and crisis support over the phone. Calls from a landline are the same cost as a local call, while calls from a mobile are free.

  • beyondblue
    1300 22 4636
    beyondblue is an organisation aimed at helping Australians of all ages deal with anxiety, depression and related conditions. Support is available over the phone (24/7) or via web chat (between 3 pm and 12 am daily). beyondblue also runs a website specifically for young people, youthbeyondblue, which contains information about cyberbullying as well as many other issues relevant to children and teens.

In addition, we recommend the following sites and contacts for help and advice around cyberbullying, as well as other youth issues:

  • Cybersmart
    Cybersmart is a government-run website designed to educate children, young people, parents, teachers and library staff about safe and productive use of the internet.

  • Headspace
    A project of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, Headspace provides a comprehensive website and one-stop-shop mental health services that are youth-specific.

  • ReachOut
    ReachOut is an online service that aims to inspire young people to help themselves through tough times. They offer specific advice on cyberbullying here.

  • Some counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists are specifically trained to deal with young people. For information on practitioners in your local area, call the beyondblue helpline on 1300 22 4636. Your local doctor (GP) can also provide information about and referrals to youth-friendly mental health and wellbeing services.

Back to top

Friendly Schools acknowledges the Public Education Endowment Trust (PEET), who provided funding for the Cyber Strong Schools research project on which the Cyberbullying Support section of this website is based.