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Internet and email bullying

Social networking sites, messaging and online discussions can all be used to bully and make fun of someone. Even if the bullying seems to be coming from someone you don't know, that doesn't mean that you can't stop it happening.

Being bullied online

Internet bullying doesn't only happen on social networks like Facebook and YouTube. Cyberbullies can use other ways to upset someone, like sending rude emails or instant messages.

Here are some examples of how people can be bullied online.

Hate sites

In some cases, bullies have built websites that are dedicated to making fun out of someone. Some of these sites encourage other people to join in with the bullying, by publishing someone’s personal details or linking to their social network page.

Abusive emails

You may be getting nasty and threatening messages sent to you from an address that you don't recognise. Bullies often try to keep their identity a secret by creating a new account that doesn't use their real name.

You should treat your email address exactly the same as your home telephone or mobile number. Think carefully before you pass it on to anyone or decide to make it public on a website or a blog.

It may be safer to only give out your email address to close friends or members of your family.

Chat rooms and discussion forums

Message boards and chat rooms give you the chance to talk with other people who are interested in the same things as you.

For example:

  • supporters of the same football team can talk about how their players did in their last match
  • fans of a singer or band can talk about new releases
  • you can swap tips and help people playing the same video game as you

Even though most forum members are friendly, you may suddenly find yourself getting nasty comments and abuse. This can be for no reason at all, or because you disagreed with another member’s opinion.

If you find yourself being victimised do not reply but save the messages as evidence.

Some discussion forums allow moderators to block the IP address of a user. This means that the bully will not be able to join the same internet forum with a new username from the same computer.

Instant messenger

You may get rude messages on your instant messenger (IM) account from someone. They may be a friend, or a friend of a friend. You should only add people you know face to face to your instant messenger. Doing this means that you’re always sure that your IM friends are who they say they are. Even if you accept IM requests from people you only chat with online, it’s easy to block or remove anyone if things get nasty. If you do this you should keep the messages as evidence.

Advice on protecting yourself online

There are a few general rules you can follow to protect yourself when you’re using the Internet.

  • avoid using your real name as a username in a chatroom, on your instant messenger account or as part of your email address
  • avoid using a photo of yourself as an avatar on a discussion forum
  • if a person or anything that you see or read on the Internet makes you feel uncomfortable, tell a parent or someone else you trust. You can also report it to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) or speak to someone at Childline.
  • Report online abuse (CEOP website)
  • ChildLine (contacts section)