How to stay safe online

Explains how to keep yourself safe and look after your wellbeing when you use the internet for information or support for your mental health. It covers protecting your privacy, how to take relationships offline safely and how to address online bullying and abuse.

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What is online bullying and abuse?

Just like in offline life, you might encounter people who upset you or behave in ways that cause you serious problems. This might be by:

  • behaving in a threatening way
  • emotional abuse or manipulation
  • verbal harassment or intimidation
  • sexual harassment

Unfortunately, the internet provides an opportunity for people to carry out bullying and abuse in extra ways too, such as:

  • posting private pictures or information about you
  • hacking your account (accessing it without your permission)
  • using your identity without your permission (identity fraud)

It can be horrible to experience bullying or abuse online, but remember: you don't have to put up with it.

What can I do about bullying and abuse?

If you experience bullying or abuse, there are some things you can do immediately:

  • Don’t respond – it can encourage further unwanted communication.
  • Block or delete the person – this means they won’t be able to contact you and you can’t see what they write.

It's easy to delete and block people [...] don't worry about hurting their feelings. Look after yourself.

If you’re worried for your safety or the safety of others, you might need to take more serious steps:

  • Keep a record of any posts or messages that you’ve received, for example, take a screenshot or save messages to an offline file. This can help if you need to provide evidence to the site moderators or the police.
  • Report it to the site moderators. Most websites will have a policy for reporting bad behaviour, so make sure you read this before you start. The Know the Net website has information on exactly how to report people on some of the most well-known websites.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or family member – they may be able to offer help and support.
  • Contact the police if you are being threatened or abused online and you feel in danger.

It's important to remember to take care of yourself when you're handling a difficult situation like this. See our pages on looking after your wellbeing online and managing stress for more information.


This information was published in June 2015. We will revise it in 2018.

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