If your child is experiencing cyberbullying it is important they do not engage in conversation with the perpetrators online. Instead, document everything, save the evidence and report it straight away.
Collecting and saving evidence
Before you can file an effective complaint about cyberbullying, you must be able to show evidence. Although it will be tempting for your child to delete distressing messages, without proof, schools, service providers or the police are limited as to how they can respond.
Text and email
Make sure all text messages and emails are saved, and where possible, back these up elsewhere.
For bullying perpetrated through online social platforms, take a screen shot of every incident. A 'screen shot' program or app enables you to save as a picture, the contents of a screen. These are available to download (usually for free) on all internet browsers and smart phones.
If your child is receiving nuisance telephone calls, document the date, time, duration and what has been said. Try to establish if there are any identifiable features such as voice description or background noise.
Who should cyberbullying be reported to?
Depending on the type and severity of the cyberbullying, you should report to one or all of the following:
- The school;
- Online and telephone service providers;
- The police or children's services.
Reporting to the school
The school has a responsibility to protect students from bullying, even if it happens offsite, online or over the phone. Follow our guidelines on reporting to the school, and be sure to take evidence of cyberbullying with you.
Reporting to service providers
For details on how you can report abuses on social media and email, please visit our cyber safe settings page.
To report abuses to a phone provider, call their general customer services number. But please note, while there are some ways in which they can help, there are limitations to be aware of.
Most phone service providers will not be able to:
- give you the number of a withheld caller without a police crime reference number. Even then, these details will usually be communicated directly to the police on your behalf;
- block specific numbers. If you continually receive malicious calls or texts, providers can only offer a change of number. However, it is usually possible to block a number from the call management features on your mobile handset;
- investigate a telephone number once it has been changed. Please be aware that in most cases, malicious calls or messages to an old number cannot be investigated. Only change your number once you are satisfied with the outcome of a complaint.
Reporting to the police
Cyberbullying is not a specific criminal offence in the UK. However, incidents which are considered as harassment, threats or menacing communication may be an offence under the following acts:
- Protection from Harassment Act (1997)
- Malicious Communications Act (1988)
- Communications Act (2003)
- Obscene Publications Act (1959)
- Computer Misuse Act (1990)
For more information about whether the police can help, contact your local station.
Reporting sexual abuse or grooming
If your child has experienced online abuse of a sexual nature or someone is trying to meet up with them, you should report it directly to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.