You may experience cyberbullying, online abuse, harassment or negative comments when you are online including email, text or during chat.

This can be quite disturbing, especially if lots of others join in or like the comments. You or a friend or sibling may even be upset about the communications that are happening.

However it happens, it is not acceptable and it’s important for you not to respond. That’s hard to do and you may really want to hit back on your own behalf or to support a friend – don’t. The quicker it stops, the less damage.

I’m upset by what has been said online – what can I do?

  • Try to stay calm for yourself or for someone you may be supporting.
  • Collect evidence of the abuse by taking screenshots or printing out copies.
  • If the platform – whether it’s a website or smartphone app – has published terms and conditions then report the abuse straight away. The more people who report it, the more attention may be given by the provider. Popular platforms will usually provide a “Report Abuse” button or “Safety” link where you can contact the company.
  • If you can, block the bullying messages coming through.
  • If you are helping someone, find out what they would like to have happen – most likely for it to stop, but also they may really want to know who is behind it all. It isn’t too likely that you will be able to find out who is doing it if they are anonymous, but you may have a good idea. Only the Police can ask for account information from service providers.
  • Discuss the possible options – you may want to call Netsafe on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723) to get more information on what is or isn’t possible.

Sometimes you or a friend will want to ignore the abuse because you are concerned that getting adults or schools involved may make it worse.

If the abuse and harassment is from a student or students at the same school it is a good idea to talk to the adult at school you feel most comfortable with and explain what you want to have happen.

Schools are required under the National Adminstration Guidelines to ensure the emotional as well as the physical safety of their students (NAG 5 (i)). If you feel unsafe at school you won’t be able to focus on learning so the school needs to take action.

Where can you get help?

Police may need to be involved if there are threats to harm, blackmail, or if the harmful communication reaches the threshold of the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 – Section 22. If it doesn’t met the criminal threshold you can contact Netsafe for help by calling us on 0508 NETSAFE or making a report.

Netsafe can tell you if there’s anything else you can do to stop the abuse and stay safe. We can also look into your situation, and may work with you and the person harassing you to get them to stop. We may also contact online content hosts like Facebook and Twitter to ask them to block or remove harmful digital communications. If we can’t help you resolve things, you can apply to the District Court for help – but you have to have tried to resolve things with Netsafe first.

Schools will have School Community Officers who work with them and Youth Aid Officers also so the school is a good starting point for you as well. It can also be helpful to talk to your school counsellor and get support from a parent or someone in your extended whanau.

Ways to prevent cyberbullying and online harassment

  • Protect what you publish online by using the platform privacy settings;
  • Never give anyone your password and log out when you finish using a site, especially on a shared device;
  • Remember that once you post information online you can lose control of it;
  • If you have got naked online talk it over confidentially and anonymously with Netsafe;
  • Don’t give in to blackmail – either requests for money or more images – the situation will only get worse.

More advice and information