Bullying is when another person, or group of people, behaves in a way that is cruel or hurtful to you. This can include being physically violent, making threats or harassing you. Harassment means continuing or persistent verbal or physical attacks against you.
Bullying includes things like:
teasing or calling you names;
saying things to put you down or make fun of or humiliate you;
unwanted touching or kissing;
excluding you from activities or groups;
making inappropriate comments about your sexuality;
pushing or hitting you or being violent in some other way;
making threats, obscene gestures or saying things that make you or others scared;
forcing you to do ridiculous or dangerous things;
damaging, taking or breaking your things;
demanding money or food or other things from you;
belittling your abilities and achievements;
writing mean or spiteful notes, emails,
posts or graffiti about you or others;
andmaking fun of your appearance.
What is cyber bullying?
Cyber bullying happens in the virtual world - where someone uses SMS, e-mail, blogs, chat rooms, discussion boards, instant messages, or social networking sites (like Facebook and Twitter) to behave in a way that is hurtful or cruel.
Cyberbullying can include behaviour like posting nasty comments and photos of you or spreading rumours and making threats about you.
Often people try to hide from their behaviour online by saying things like “It’s a joke”. The internet, particularly SMS, email, blogs, chat rooms, discussion boards, instant messages and social media, are forms of written communication. One thing that written words are not good at is conveying tone – it is hard to tell if something is meant as a joke, or is serious. Once you put it out there, you can’t control how people will read and understand your words.
Cyber bullying is serious because the target of the bullying feels like they cannot escape it. The reality of our world is that the internet is available to us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – and can be accessed anytime of the day or night.
Even if photos or comments are only sent to one person or a small group of people, it is not possible to stop the spread – someone might share or repost comments to others who then repost them and so on. It is not really possible to control social media, or to truly delete or remove something from social media. It will exist somewhere forever on the internet.
Cyber bullying can be very public, especially if photos or comments are posted on sites that can be accessed by anyone.
What can happen if you cyberbully someone?
You might be charged with a criminal offence (see below).
If you do this to another student at a school or university, you might be disciplined or suspended for breaching Policies or Codes of Conduct that apply to you.
You might find that a person sues you under civil law seeking compensation from you because of the distress that has been caused to them, or the damage that their reputation has suffered.
Is cyber bullying a crime?
What can happen to you?
If you take someone else’s identity online without their permission (use their password, or even pass yourself off as that person on line) you might find you are charged with the following offences:
If you use the internet to harass someone, by creating a fake profile in their name and posting offensive content on it, you might find you are charged with the following offences:
That is because the use of anyone’s identity – including their name – to commit any crime (such as threats or harassment) breaches the law.
If you threaten to assault or bash or hurt someone on the internet, then you might find you are charged with the following offences:
A public act of hate is a threat to physically hurt someone or encouraging other people to physically hurt someone, because of their race or sexual identity.
Stalking includes behaviour like following someone, watching them or hanging around their house, school, work or anywhere they normally go. Online, it can be sending lots of messages to find someone, or using an app to track them.
Intimidation can include contacting someone either online or offline in a way that scares them.
This behaviour becomes a crime when done knowingly or intentionally, or without caring that it might cause someone to fear for their safety.
What to do if this is happening to you?
Whether you’ve been bullied or called a bully, you should get legal advice, and also access supports.
Also, use these good online habits:
Set your profile to the highest possible privacy setting;
Only add people you actually know and have a good relationship with as friends;
If you’re being bullied by online, block that person from contacting you. You might also report them to the website administrator or to a trusted adult;
Keep your log-in details private; and
Only send pictures or personal information to people you know and trust.
You can ask for Police assistance or obtain an Apprehended Violence Order for your protection if you need it. See Apprehended Violence Orders for more information.
Also, you might like to seek out some support. Try these:
For information on bullying:
For Legal Advice:
Youth Hotline on 1800 10 18 10.
Legal advice and information for young people under 18, from 9am to midnight on weekdays, with a 24-hour service from Friday at 9am to Sunday at midnight and also on public holidays.
For counselling support:
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800 (24 hours)
Youthline: 13 11 14 (24 hours)
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
Disclaimer: This information is a general guide to the law. It should not be relied on as legal advice. If you have a specific legal problem you should consult a lawyer.
It applies to people who live in, or are affected by, the law as it applies in NSW, Australia. The information contained in this publication is current at 1 January 2014.