Online bullying can be tough to deal with, and it can feel like there’s ‘no escape’ – but there’s help available.

If you’re being bullied online, or if someone has sent or posted something about you that makes you upset, you can contact us and we’ll let you know what you can do about it.

Call 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723) seven days a week, email, text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282 or report online using our online form. – Find out more about we can help.
If you’re concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, call 111.

We have specific advice on bullying for young people and advice for parents.

What is online bullying?

Online bullying (also known as cyberbullying) is when a person uses digital technology to send, post or publish content with the intention to harm another person or a group. This behaviour is often aggressive, is repeated and involves some kind of power imbalance between the people involved.

Online bullying can take many forms:

  • name calling online
  • repeated unwanted online messages
  • spreading rumours or lies
  • fake accounts used to harass people
  • excluding people from social activities
  • embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles

What to do if you’re being bullied

Every situation of bullying is different. Here’s a few ideas about what to do that you can choose from, depending on what’s been going on.

  • Don’t reply: Especially to messages from phone numbers, profiles or people you don’t know.
  • Don’t attack the person back: Avoid giving the bully the satisfaction of a reaction.
  • Have a conversation: If it’s safe, try talking to the person privately about what they’ve said or done to work things out.
  • Get support Talking to friends or whānau can make you feel better – or you can reach out to Youthline, Lifeline or others.
  • Save messages and images: Take screen shots of the bullying in case you need evidence later. Find out how here.
  • Cut off the person bullying you: Block their phone number, or block them on social media.
  • Report it: If the online bullying is happening on social media, you can find out how to report it below.
  • There is an NZ law to help: The Harmful Digital Communications Act aims to help people dealing with online bullying, abuse and harassment.
  • Get help: Contact Netsafe for help. We can help with any of the above, tell you if there’s anything you can do to stop the abuse and let you know how to stay safe.

Options for dealing with online bullying

Each situation is different, and we can help you to understand the best options available to you. There are also some actions that you’re able to take yourself that can help.

Social media

Most social networking sites including blocking and unfriending people and reporting content. If you’re not sure how, visit the safety centres of the social media platforms they use.

Social media safety centres 
Facebook Snapchat instagramYoutube Twitter

Facebook • Snapchat  • Instagram   •YouTube  • Twitter

There is also the ability to disable comments on posts and videos on Instagram and YouTube.

Check out more options and advice from social media platforms, including filtering comments on Instagram using certain keywords, in our Staying Safe Online Guide.


You may want to block phone numbers that are sending bullying or abusive messages.

You can find instructions for blocking numbers on your phone by searching online. Use the words “how to block phone numbers” + the model of your phone. For example, search “how to block phone numbers Samsung Galaxy S7”. You can also contact your service provider for help, or use these instructions for how to block numbers on Apple devices.


If you’re a young person, you can talk to your parents, teachers, or another adult you trust. We know this might seem a bit scary, especially if you think it might make the situation worse. If you need help deciding what to do, you can call us for advice (it’s free) or email us. We help people dealing with online bullying everyday, so there’s no need to feel nervous about letting us know what’s going on.

What if it’s very serious?

There is a law in New Zealand to tackle the worst cases of bullying, abuse and harassment for both young people and adults. This includes image based abuse (leaked nudes), incitement to suicide and extremely offensive, abusive or harassing content directed toward an individual. Under The Harmful Digital Communications Act (the Act), Netsafe has been chosen to offer a free service for people in New Zealand to help with online bullying, harassment and abuse – contact us if you need advice.

What to do if a friend is being bullied online

  1. Offer your support: Remind them that no matter what, they don’t deserve to be treated this way.
  2. Don’t reply: Tell them not to reply or respond to any messages or make contact with the person bullying them.
  3. Get them to stay calm: Don’t let your friend react in an aggressive way – it may just make things worse.
  4. Save evidence: Make sure your friend saves the messages and take screenshots of website and chat abuse. Find out how here.
  5. Report it: If the online bullying is happening on a social media site, you can report it as abuse.
  6. Get help: Get your friend to contact Netsafe for help, We can tell them if there’s anything else they can do to stop the abuse and stay safe.

Find out how we can help.

What to do if you see online bullying

It can be easy to make excuses when you see online bullying. If you do see something going on, be aware that you’re not

  • Blaming – “They deserved it.”
  • Minimising it – “It’s just a joke.”
  • Denying it – “That wouldn’t hurt my feelings, so they shouldn’t be hurt.”
  • Avoiding it – “Nobody else is doing anything about it.”

If you see online bullying, you can report the problem anonymously to the website or app where it’s taking place. You can also reach out to support the person being targeted – you’ll help that person feel less isolated which can help with the impacts of bullying. Simply asking if they’re OK, and letting them know that you don’t think what the other person is doing is OK can help.

Need help?

If you or someone you know needs help, contact us by emailing, text ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, call us toll free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723) or report online using our online form.

Our helpline is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.

If you’re concerned about the immediate safety of you or someone else, call 111.

If you or someone else need counselling support you can reach out to Youthline, Lifeline or others.

More information