It’s very upsetting to get abusive emails, instant messages and to have nasty websites or social network profiles set up to invite people to post offensive remarks about you. This is called cyber bullying.
There are ways that people who send emails can be tracked by internet service providers and the police. All emails carry information which shows the path the email has taken to get to your computer.
Internet service providers (ISP) have contact email addresses for complaints about email and Cyber Bullying coming from their network and this will normally be email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or whichever system the sender is using. Don’t reply to the email or delete it, get your parents to forward the whole thing to the sender’s ISP.
We closed down a series of message boards in the Hertfordshire/north London area where pupils were being identified by name, school and year and others were invited to post abuse about them. These boards have been reported to Hertfordshire Police following complaints to us by parents and pupils.
Among problems we identified were:
A death threat
Numerous bogus messages posted in the names of people being targeted
A boy who lost all his friends as a result of postings made in his name
Numerous threats of violence
A girl who tried to kill herself due to abuse
a teenager on anti-depressants and afraid to go out due to threats
Sending abuse by email or posting it into a web board can be harassment and if this has happened to you then your parents or carers need to make a complaint to the police.
All message boards run by private individuals are hosted by firms and you can often find an address to complain to in the ‘help’ section of the board. In our experience firms usually act swiftly to shut down the board because allowing abuse to be posted is against their terms and conditions.
Online abuse isn’t secret
Even if the people posting this abuse do so using a false name, they can still be traced because the firm which hosts the website will keep logs which detail where uploads have been made from. You and your parents can’t access this information but the police can.
If you’re getting rude comments by instant messenger print them out and give them to your parents. They could contact the police if the messages are threatening or if there are so many of them that they could be considered to be harassment. Change your IM details and only give them to genuine friends.
If you are a parent and are concerned about cyber bullying, you can contact Bullying UK through our support services, on 0808 800 2222
You can also find more information on cyber bullying and tips on how to bring up the issue with your child at Internet Matters.
West Mercia Police have produced informative advice sheets on what to do if you are being bullied online. The advice sheets are for young people and adults.