how to stand up for someone who’s being cyber bullied

01 May 2019
Being bullied online is really hard. If someone you know is getting picked on or attacked, there are things you can do to help the situation.

When someone you know is getting bullied online it can be hard to know what to do or say. Bullying that happens on the internet is just as real and hurtful as stuff that happens face-to-face. Cyber bulling can involve:

  • spreading rumours about someone

  • sharing private stuff about someone, either in text, images or videos

  • filming them or taking pictures they don’t want put online

  • catfishing or tricking someone

  • sending someone mean or abusive messages

  • threatening someone

  • making memes about someone

  • leaving someone out on purpose (not tagging only them even though they’re there etc.).

Here are some tips on what to do if you see someone you know getting bullied online.


Message them your support

People who are getting bullied can feel really alone. The fact that we’re often by ourselves on the internet can make this worse. If you see someone getting bullied, send them a message – it could make a big difference. You could:

  • say something positive or kind about them

  • ask them how they’re going

  • tell them that what’s happening isn’t okay

  • offer to talk through things (online or in person)

  • ask how you can help.

When some people are being cruel or aggressive to us, it’s easy to believe that everyone is in on it, or that no one cares. Reaching out can be really reassuring.


Don’t take part in the bullying

Bullying isn’t something only evil people do. If picking on someone starts to become normal in a group, it’s easy to get swept up in it. This is extra true for cyber bullying. The fact that you can’t see the face of the person who’s getting targeted makes it easier to write it off as being ‘just a joke’.

If you feel a bit uncomfortable about a joke or meme about someone, or think that things might have gone too far, trust your instincts. Don’t contribute, even if you feel like your friends expect you to. Don’t like the bullying, forward it or share it. You might even choose to leave a group chat if bullying is happening.


Take a stand against bullying

If it’s safe, a really brave thing to do is to tell the person or people who are bullying to stop. Let them know that what they’re doing is not okay. This can be hard, but it could be one of the biggest ways to make a difference to the situation.

You could even comment on the thread, saying that what they’re doing isn’t OK. Our anti-bullying expert Dani suggests ‘flooding nasty comment sections with supportive comments, or writing short and snappy comments like “dislike” under hateful things.’

A less confrontational way of calling someone out on bullying is reporting their nasty comments or posts. Most social media sites have 'report' buttons. On Facebook, you can report any content that harasses or excludes someone, and you remain completely anonymous if you do this. If you've tried these methods and still don't get a helpful response, report the bullying to the eSafety Commissioner. They're able to override any platform and remove harmful or hurtful comments.

Sometimes you might not feel safe to intervene out of fear that you’ll be targeted too. That’s completely understandable, and not something to beat yourself up about. Find other ways to support the person being bullied and speak to someone who’s in a better position to step in.


Talk to an adult

If a friend or someone you know is being cyber bullied, it’s a really good idea to talk to an adult you trust. You could ask your own parents for advice, or talk to a teacher or school counsellor. When you see bullying occurring, it’s a good idea to take screenshots of everything so you have evidence of it later. This way, you can show a parent or teaching the bullying that's happening.

If you or someone you know is getting cyber bullied – or you think you might have taken part in cyber bullying, and don’t want to do it any more – there are friendly experts you can talk to for support. Get in touch with eheadspace, or visit your closest headspace centre.