What to do about online bullying

Sadly, many of us will have found ourselves a subject of online bullying. I have personally experienced this a number of times, mostly from other people involved in my sport. Some of them even go to drastic measures of creating fake accounts through which they reach me with distressing messages. I know I am not alone in this. Bullying isn’t new but with social media it has become easier for bullies to try and bring people down, it is easier to reach their victims and they can do so at any time. It is important we stay strong and don’t let them win. We need to stand together to send the message to the bullies that this is not acceptable.

Some examples of bullying include:

  • Trying to get someone to hurt themselves 

  • Sharing intimate images without consent (shared nudes, sometimes called “revenge porn”)

  • Encouraging other people to send harmful messages to someone 

  • Behaviour that most people would think of as very offensive 

  • Sharing someone’s sensitive private information without their permission 

  • Making false allegations about someone

  • Sharing confidential information about someone without their permission

  • Putting someone down because of their colour, race, ethnic or national origins, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability 

  • Sharing indecent or obscene content

  • Threatening to hurt someone or damage their property 

  • Sending messages of a personal and malicious nature

Protecting your peace

  1. Change your privacy settings – “friends only” or “private” are the most secure. This way you have a little more control over what people get to see. 

  2. Keep personal details private. It is extremely important to your safety that you only put out there what you don’t mind people knowing about. Even with strict privacy settings and blocking, people can still find ways to access your information through others. 

  3. Block and unfriend. You have this option available to you on social media and it is also possible to block phone numbers and emails. 

  4. If someone harasses you, screenshot and save all the messages as evidence. Refrain from engaging with the bully. It is fine to simply tell them to leave you alone if you wish, but do not send back anything threatening or mean. The only way to stop bullies is by shutting them down, not becoming a bully yourself by getting involved in argument. DO NOT contribute.

  5. Tell someone you trust. Don’t battle it alone.

  6. Report it. You can report posts on Facebook and Instagram directly to these platforms, but you can also report to higher organisations such as Netsafe, whose details are below. Serious threats should always be reported immediately to the police.

  7. Bullying is a huge issue so it is important that you are honest about your own behaviour too and make sure you aren't contributing to the negative picture. Spread kindness, call out bullies when they are harassing others, don’t become engaged in the gossip and don’t spread rumours. 

Reporting bullying

You have the following options for reporting when you have been a victim of online bullying:

  1. You can ring the New Zealand police’s non-emergency line on 105 and file your report or, if your personal safety or property is in immediate danger, then do not hesitate to phone 111.

  2. You can file a report through Netsafe by filling out an online contact form and emailing it to help@netsafe.org.nz. You can also text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282 or call toll-free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723). 

Under The Harmful Digital Communications Act, Netsafe has been chosen to offer free service to people in New Zealand to help with online bullying, harassment and abuse. Yes, bullying is a criminal act and that is why it is important we report it.

  1. If you need to talk to someone and help to get through a distressing time, then I encourage you to reach out for further support. There are a few options here:

  • Contact Need to Talk? via www.1737.org.nz or via free call/text on 1737

  • Contact Lifeline by sending free text HELP to 4357 or calling 0800 LIFELINE (0800 54 33 54) to speak to a confidential counsellor

Reports are always handled in a sensitive, confidential and supportive way to achieve an outcome that is positive and with no harm.

A word on bullies…

Bullies are just people who have become insecure with themselves, like most of us do every now and then. However, instead of trying to work through their issues and focus on their own lives, bullies choose to bring others down to make themselves feel better.

If someone is trying to bring you down, make sure you shine bright, do the opposite of what they try to provoke you to do. Don’t let someone else to stop you from living your dreams so that they feel more comfortable. Protect your peace. Show up for yourself. Be a shining light. Be your best you and forget about those who try to drag you down. That’s what they want so don’t you ever give up on yourself. 

-Ashleigh Kendall