Cyberbullying

To support schools as they plan for a potential shift to online learning, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner has developed a range of tips and resources to help school leaders create safe online environments. For more information, refer to COVID-19: keeping schools and learning safe online
The Office has also released an online safety kit for parents and carers, which includes evidence-based suggestions and trustworthy links to support them to stay informed and keep their children safe online. For more information, refer to COVID-19: an online safety kit for parents and carers

Cyberbullying is bullying using digital technologies including mobile phones, email and social media tools. Cyberbullying includes:

  • Pranking
    Repeated hang-ups, anonymous, mocking or threatening phone calls.
  • Image sharing
    Forwarding or sharing unflattering or private images without permission.
  • Sexually explicit images
    People of any age, who forward or share images of a sexual nature of a person under 18 need to be aware that this is a criminal offence (child pornography) that may result in prosecution.
  • Text and email
    Sending insulting or threatening text messages or emails.
  • Personal online information
    Publishing online someone's private, personal or embarrassing information without permission, or spreading rumours online.
  • Identity theft
    Assuming someone’s identity online and negatively representing them in a way that damages their reputation or relationships.
  • Hate sites
    Creating hate sites or implementing social exclusion campaigns on social networking sites.

It is also cyberbullying when a student, or students, uses technology to run a multi-step campaign to bully another student. For example, setting another student up to be assaulted, video-recording their humiliation, posting the video-recording online and then sending the website address to others.

Cyberbullying vs bullying

While cyberbullying is similar to bullying in some ways, there are also differences.

Differences:

  • Cyberbullying is invasive
    It can be difficult to escape and is incredibly invasive. It is more likely to occur outside of school, including while at home, and can happen at any time.
  • Cyberbullying can involve​ a large audience
    It can involve harmful material being widely and rapidly shared to a large audience, for example, rumours and images can be posted on public forums or sent to many people at once. This material can also continue to be available and harmful long after cyberbullying has ceased.
  • Cyberbullies have a sense​​ of anonymity
    It can provide the bully with a sense of relative anonymity and distance from the target, so there is a lack of immediate feedback or consequences.

Similarities:

  • Power imbalance
    The power imbalance between the ‘bully’ and ‘target’, the repetitive nature of the bullying behaviour and the intent to harm, humiliate, embarrass, ostracise, or isolate can occur in bullying and cyberbullying.
  • Types of behaviour
    Types of behaviour including spreading rumours and making threats or insults can occur in bullying and cyberbullying.
  • Reasons for behaving in a​ bullying way
    People often engage in cyberbullying for the same reasons they engage in bullying.

Advice and safety

Our website has resources to help students, parents and schools to deal with cyberbullying.