The internet is a big part of our lives and everyone has a right to feel safe online! Social media can reveal a lot about our lives to the digital world. Most sites want to know all kinds of personally identifying information about you, and unfortunately some nasty people might use this information to bully others.
We’re big believers in online safety so we’ve put together some steps you can follow if someone’s bullying you or a loved one online.
Stay calm and talk to friends or family
The first thing to do is stay calm… at least online. It may be tempting to retaliate with a sick burn or a snappy one-liner but bullies just love to know that they’ve got under your skin, so it’s better to say nothing at all!
You might also be considering deleting your account, however this can have unintended side effects. For example, the bully might create a new account to impersonate you, using your former username. Instead, seek out family or close friends that make you feel safe and supported. They can give you the support you need and help you to address the bullying. Bullying can make you feel unloved and alone, so if you see a friend being bullied, reach out and let them know you’re there for them.
If you’re a parent, be aware that your child might not be comfortable talking to you. They might want to handle it themselves, or they could be afraid that you’ll cause a scene and stop them using the internet altogether. Don’t forget that they may use the internet to talk to their closest friends! If your child talks to you, listen calmly and let them know their feelings are normal. Keep an eye on their mood, and make sure they are eating and sleeping well.
Collect some evidence
If you intend to report the bullying, it’s important to make some records of the bullying. Take screenshots of the bully’s posts, and mark them with the date, time, and screen name of the person who posted it (even if it’s a fake name). If they posted photos or videos, download those as well – they may have hidden information (metadata) that might be helpful. Consider making a spreadsheet with fields like what the bully did, the date it happened, when you found out about it, their screen name, where you put your evidence, and any actions you took with the website involved.
Save everything to a folder so you can include it when making a report. If it’s a large file size, you might need to right click and “Send” it to a Compressed (zipped) folder on a Windows PC. On a MAC, just right click and select “Compress Items”.
Lock your account(s) down and review your privacy settings
Once you’ve collected your evidence, feel free to block your bullies. Don’t be afraid to be heavy-handed: anyone who upsets you must go! One of the easiest ways to stay safe online is simply to be careful about what you share. Depending on what’s happening, you might want to check the privacy settings on your social accounts. You can also make sure you remove any personally identifying information such as your phone number, address, location, or date of birth. There may be photos you want to set to private so people you don’t trust can’t see them.
To be sure, you can test your settings by logging out and viewing your profile to see what’s visible, or ask a friend to help you out. If there’s more than one bully, or people you don’t trust are viewing your account, it might be time to make your account completely private.
Report the bullying
Depending on how serious it is, you may want to report the bullying. Most social media sites have a way to report users or posts but they’ll want details. This is where all the evidence you’ve collected will come in handy. If your bully posted private messages, photos, or videos, you can also ask for these to be removed. If someone is using images or videos that you created against you, that means that you own the copyright and you can escalate to a DMCA takedown notice if necessary. If you are a minor (under 18) make sure you let them know when you ask for photos to be removed.
Cyberbullying directed at minors can be reported to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner, who can also help you get cyberbullying material removed. Adults can report incidents to the police, or to the ACORN – the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network.