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Online Safety & Security

In this section we will look at Online Security, Online Safety, Radicalisation and Extremism

What is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is an aggressive act targeted at an individual or group of individuals through digital means. Essentially, it is when somebody tries to embarrass, humiliate, threaten, stalk, or harass another person online.

This is a very general definition, and highlights that cyberbullying comes in many forms, and can happen on any device, and through any online platform (games, social media sites, private messaging, etc.). It can be perpetrated by somebody who is known or somebody who is a stranger.

In the following sections we will explore some of the ways cyberbullying can manifest itself, we will take a look at some of the legal implications and were you can obtain help should you; or someone you know become a victim of cyberbullying.


This is the act of sending offensive, rude, and insulting messages and being abusive. Nasty or humiliating comments on posts, photos and in chat rooms. Being explicitly offensive on gaming sites. 

When comments gets abusive

There are quite a few instant messaging apps including Snapchat, WhatsApp, Secret, Whisper and Instagram.  They are a great way of sharing things with your friends and having fun. But if things turn nasty you can block people from seeing you are on line and you can save abusive conversations or print them out as evidence.

It's tempting to have a go back if someone makes an inappropriate posting on your online space, social network or app but don't, as it often just makes the problem worse. Abusive comments are very upsetting but the best way to deal with them is to get them removed by the website. (see Getting Help - UK Safer Internet Centre)


This is when someone may send information about another person that is fake, damaging and untrue. Sharing photos of someone for the purpose to ridicule, spreading fake rumours and gossip. This can be on any site online or on apps. We even hear about people altering photos of others and posting in online for the purpose of bullying.


This is when others intentionally leave someone out of a group such as group messages, online apps, gaming sites and other online engagement. This is also a form of social bullying and is very common.   Exclusion is a cyberbullying tactic that is highly effective and directly targets a person’s intrinsic need to feel accepted and part of a social group and it is well-known that teens especially; are developmentally fixated on being recognised by their peers.  The process of designating who is a member of the peer group and who is not included can be devastating to the victim.


This is when someone is purposely using really extreme and offensive language and getting into online arguments and fights. They do this to cause reactions and enjoy the fact it causes someone to get distressed.  These online arguments occur in public communication environments for peer bystanders to witness.

Doxing or Doxxing

This is when someone may share personal information about another (Outing)  or trick someone into revealing secrets and forward it to others. They may also do this with private images and videos too. 


Catfishing is when someone uses images and information (often taken from other people’s social media accounts) to create a new identity online – sometimes using an individual’s entire identity as their own. Newly created social media accounts can then be used to damage the reputation of the true owner of the identity, or alternatively any fictional identities that are created using other people’s images and information can be used to form dishonest relationships online. Although catfishing used to be seen more among adults using online dating platforms, it has now become a more widespread problem among adults and teenagers. Some people who catfish go to extreme lengths to create fake identities – having multiple social media accounts with the purpose of building up and validating their catfishing profiles.

Cyber Stalking

This is the act of repeatedly sending messages that include threats of harm, harassment, intimidating messages, or engaging in other online activities that make a person afraid for his or her safety. The actions may be illegal too depending on what they are doing.

Cyber Self-harm

Cyber self-harm or digital self-harm is growing problem that is especially prominent among teenagers involving abusive messages and insults being directed by the sender at themselves, often through anonymous social media platforms or with the use of anonymous social media accounts. The problem of cyber self-harm is not as widespread as cyberbullying or harassment but it is growing, and can lead to devastating consequences.

The most common platforms for cyber self-harm are those where users can send anonymous comments, which makes it easier to direct insults towards your own profile without the complication of creating fake accounts – although some people will take the time to do this.

Cyber self-harm is not necessarily linked to physical self-harm, but may act as a catalyst for physical harm. Digital self-harm might feel as addictive to some people as physical self-harm and its related actions of cutting, burning or hair-pulling. The complex combination of public humiliation, shame and sympathy make for a difficult cycle to break. Cyber self-harm can lead to low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders and suicide.

Happy Slapping

'Happy slapping' is nothing to do with being happy. It's a form of bullying where people are attacked and the attack is filmed on a mobile camera phone. Attackers often share the videos with their friends.  These assaults are not only hurtful and upsetting, but they are also illegal.

Threatening behaviour

Anyone who makes threats to you on the internet could be committing a criminal offence. It's against the law in the UK to use the phone system, which includes the internet, to cause alarm or distress. It could also be against the 1997 Harassment Act. If threats are made against you then it's essential you confide in someone; parents, your tutor or someone you trust so that they can make a complaint to the police. If you can't print out the threats use the "print screen" button or snipping tool to take a snapshot of the computer screen then save somewhere securely.  If you have a phone or tablet, use the screenshot function and keep these images safe.

Blackmail and grooming

Sometimes we hear complaints from young people that new "friends" online have tried to pressure them into taking their clothes off and filming or taking images of themselves. Threats have been made that their parent will be told embarrassing things if they don't take part or they will send the images to everyone they know if they do not do it.

This is an offence called "grooming" and people who have been found guilty of "grooming" in the UK have been jailed. Remember: everyone you meet on the internet is a stranger and you need to keep personal things personal to you, don't share your secrets with other people and if anyone asks you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable then don't do it.

Sexting or youth produced sexual imagery

Describes the use of technology to share sexual images or videos which young people have taken of themselves.

These images are then shared (usually via instant messaging or text messaging) with other young people and/or adults, including with people they may not even know. The content can vary, from images of partial nudity, to sexual images or video. Young people are not always aware that sharing images in this way is illegal. The widespread use of smart phones has made the practice much more common and the taking of such photographs is often as a result of children and young people taking risks and pushing boundaries as they become more sexually and socially aware.

This is linked to, and facilitated by, the global escalation in the use of the internet, multimedia devices and social networking sites.

Legal Framework

Crimes involving indecent images of children fall under Section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978, as amended by Section 45 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to extend the definition of children from under 16s to under 18s. It is illegal to take, make, permit to take, distribute, show, possess, possess with intent to distribute, or to advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of any person below the age of 18.

The Serious Crime Act (2015) introduced an offence of sexual communication with a child. This applies to an adult who communicates with a child and the communication is sexual or if it is intended to elicit from the child a communication which is sexual and the adult reasonably believes the child to be under 16 years of age. The Act also amended the Sexual Offences Act 2003 so it is now an offence for an adult to arrange to meet with someone under 16, for the purposes of committing a relevant offence, having communicated with them on just one occasion (previously it was on at least two occasions).

Allowing or encouraging a child to view adult pornography, and/or extreme forms of obscene material is illegal and would warrant further enquiry.

General images

It's easy to save any pictures of anyone on any site and upload them to the internet. Make sure that you have the person's permission to take a picture and that they're happy for thousands of people to see it on the internet. Be wary of tagging and hashtags as this will send the picture out to a wider audience then you may have originally intended.

Don't upset people and then upload their pictures for other people to have a laugh. That could be harassment. Don't digitally alter pictures of people either because what you think is funny may be offensive to other people. Don't let anyone take pictures of you that might embarrass you.