Online bullying

 If you’re being bullied online, on social media, through messaging apps or in a game, it might feel like there’s no escape. It can make you feel upset, lonely and humiliated. You may be finding it difficult to tell someone about it.

But whatever has happened, online bullying can be stopped and it is never your fault.

What is bullying?

There are many different forms of online bullying and some people may experience more than one type.

Bullying can include:

  • Harassment and trolling – this is where a person may call someone names, or tease or humiliate them. For example, they might post nasty sexual comments posted on their social media or within an online game.
  • Gossip, rumours or lies – this is where someone may share information about a person which is damaging to their reputation. It might be true, or made up. For example, they may share gossip about a person’s sexual behaviour.
  • Impersonation – this is where a person pretends to be someone else online, to share nasty or embarrassing things such as images and videos.
  • ‘Outing’ – this is when someone may share personal information about another. For example, this might be publicly announcing someone’s sexuality or gender identity online. They may also share someone’s private images and videos without consent.
  • Excluding people  -  this is when a person, or people, leave someone out of a group on purpose – for example, in group chats, apps and games.

Sometimes bullies will try to pass off these actions as ‘banter’ to make it seem okay. It is not ‘banter’, it is bullying.

Is bullying a crime?

Most bullying is not against the law, but it is never OK. Most social media apps and games, like schools, have  rules which ban bullying behaviour.

Some bullying behaviour is illegal. It is a crime if someone: However, it is a crime if someone is:

  • Forces someone else to do so something sexual or share a nude/semi-nude image
  • Shares, or threatens to share, an under 18 year old’s nude or semi-nude images
  • Bullies someone because of their race, gender, sexual identity, or if you have a disability

If someone is threatening or harassing you, this can also be a crime.

Speak out

There is a lot of support out there to help young people  cope with bullying. An important first step is to tell someone what’s happening.

If you see someone else being bullied, report it, and talk to them about how they can get help.

Don't hide it!

If you're being bullied, an important first step is to tell someone what's happening. Watch this video of how a boy dealt with online bullying by calling Childline.

5 steps to take if you're being bullied online

  1. Tell an adult you trust. 

    Bullying can be hard to talk about but you shouldn’t feel that you have to handle it alone. Talk to an adult you trust. This could be your mum or dad,  another family member or a teacher. They will support you and help you to make it stop. You can also talk to Childline  by calling 0800 1111 or speaking to a Childline counsellor online.

  2. Talk to someone your age.

    Talk to a friend or if you don’t want to talk to someone you know, you can post messages and get advice on Childline's Message boards.

  3. Block the bullies. 

    Most websites will let you block people to stop them communicating with you. Find out how on most popular sites.

  4. Keep the evidence.

    Keep any nasty emails, texts or web pages so you can show someone what’s been going on.

  5. Report mean videos, pictures, comments or pages to the website you’ve found them on.

    Learn how to do this different sites here.

Where to get help

If you’re being bullied there’s lots of help and advice out there.

Talk to someone


On the Childline site you can find out more about online bullying. Being bullied can really knock your confidence so they also provide tips on ways to be assertive which can help deal with bullying and build up your self-esteem.

You can also speak to a counsellor on 0800 1111.

Report it

If your nude images have been shared in order to cause you harm and distress or someone is forcing you to take and share one, you can report it to CEOP. CEOP will work with other professionals, which includes other police agencies, to help keep the young person safe.

Read more about what you can do if someone else’s images are being shared.