Online bullying is a growing problem. A recent nationwide survey found that 18% of young people have experienced cyberbullying, and over half received hurtful comments online.

Here are some of the ways young people have encountered – and dealt with – cyberbullying.

Please remember Stop Speak Support, if you do see people being treated unkindly online.

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Grace’s Story

Hi, my name is Grace and this is my experience of cyberbullying. In the summer of 2012 I had just left primary school and it was the summer of social media platforms. Most of the kids my age were getting iPod touches that year and apps like Instagram, iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facetime which made social media take over our summer. I never had a good experience in school but this made the summer pretty hard too.

My experience was through iMessage, a form of social media where there is no report button or help button. During the summer I was preparing for the start of high school and trying to get ready for the new school, new people, and new things to experience, but the people who I thought were my friends turned on me in a group chat over iMessage which totally threw me off.

There was one girl in particular who I was close to and we were in the same form for the next five years. She was the person that instigated the following event, which unfolded over about a week.

Three weeks before starting high school this girl started saying things about me that were quite hurtful to 11-year-old me. They were things about the way I looked and what I wore, especially my favourite pink jacket. From experience, I had learnt never to let people see that they were upsetting you because all they want is a reaction, but this one comment has always stuck in my mind and has completely changed my outlook on what I wear for the past five years.

In primary school my mum brought me a body warmer which I was in love with. It was bright pink with orange lining and orange rims. Looking back at it now, I wouldn’t wear anything like that, but young me loved anything pink so I was in love with this jacket and I swore to never take it off–-which I never did. The particular comment that has stuck was, “that stupid pink jacket you wear that makes you look fat. You look disgusting in that any anything you ever wear.”

Inside this comment really hurt me, and has continued to stick in my mind and affect me to this day. Comments about my appearance weren’t the only texts I received—in the next few days I started receiving messages about my family, which hurt me more than anything anyone could ever say about me. By this point I realised that I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone and I was worrying about going to high school as I was struggling through every day.

My mum picked up on the way I was feeling and she realised I was spending less time on my iPod and I was being quiet. She asked me if I was ok and I just started crying and told her to read the messages on my iPod. She told me to screenshot all of them, send them to her, and by the next day she had already created a file with all the evidence to present to my new school as well as to the parents of the girl who was bullying me. My mum arranged an appointment with my new school so that they were aware of the situation and went to the girls’ house to talk to her parents but they weren’t in. Later that night the girl’s mum came round with her daughter. My mum proceeded to tell her mum the situation but her mum didn’t believe her so she told her daughter to get into the car because they were leaving. My mum didn’t give up and handed her the file of all the messages, which was what finally changed the situation. Her mum was horrified and had her daughter come back in to apologise.

While this situation was resolved, it affected me throughout high school. It’s something I took deeply and made me feel really bad. I was really lucky to have my mum be so supportive. Sharing with her was the main thing that made me feel better. I would advise anyone to find someone to tell. Share what you’re going through, and make sure you save the evidence!

It would have been really cool to have the Stop, Speak, Support campaign around when I was 11. It would have helped to educate other students and give bystanders clear actions of what they can do to help. Since my experience was on a group chat, it would have been good for some of them to know how to handle a bullying situation as a bystander. Now I know that there’s lots of support and resources out there and no one is alone.

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Lucy’s Story

My name is *Lucy and when I was in year eight I experienced cyberbullying from one of the most surprising sources – someone who I considered a close friend. Though I had been bullied when I was younger, this was the first time that it hit me so hard because it was someone I used to be very good friends with.

I met my friend *Taylor in primary school and we were inseparable since then. It wasn’t until high school that we started drifting apart and many things changed. Taylor became friends with a girl named *Amy, and as soon as their friendship began I knew that I was out of the picture. Luckily, I also had other friends at this point and got along much better with them than with Amy and the new version of Taylor that I couldn’t really recognise.

I started receiving some mean messages from Amy and Taylor and at first thought nothing of it. I tried to handle it in what I thought was a mature way and not get too worked up about it. Unfortunately, the messages started becoming a daily thing and at that point I couldn’t ignore it anymore, I felt I had to report it. The staff at my school helped me out and they even got Taylor and Amy to speak with me and apologise which made me feel that we had resolved the issues. Sadly, it wasn’t the end of the bullying.

I started feeling very lonely and that no one could even try to help me as the head of year couldn’t do anything himself. I continued to get messages throughout the day – during break, at dinner, and during classes. One day at school we passed each other in the hallway and I heard the girls talking about me, saying I was a snitch and worse. I felt betrayed and upset that they seemed to have no intention of stopping to target me. I felt like it wasn’t fair and that I didn’t deserve to be talked about behind my back or online. Although it felt easy to join in the name-calling that was going on, I knew that I wanted to resolve this in a healthy and positive way, so I decided to confront the girls without my teacher.

I built up the courage and approached Taylor and Amy the next day, asking why they were bullying me, but they were totally dismissive and told me they don’t care about me anymore. While I had hoped we might be able to get over our issues, it was clear that they didn’t want to and that left me feeling really miserable. I turned to my friends for support and advice when I felt like no one else would help me. They gave me the strength I needed to speak to someone and escalate the situation. We ended up going back to the Head of Year who took my worry very seriously and we had to present our text conversations and call logs to prove what was really happening. In the end he was able to bring Taylor and Amy in immediately to sort things out then and there.

While I wasn’t able to reconnect with Taylor even after this drama finished, she and Amy left me alone after that. I’m very grateful to my friends who convinced me to speak up and bring this bullying situation up with the school. I really relied on their help out of a difficult situation where I felt trapped and like no one would listen. The power to speaking to someone and sharing your struggle should never be forgotten, and if you don’t want to talk to an adult maybe just find a friend who will be supportive.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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Mark’s Story

My experience with Cyberbullying happened when I was in year eight. I got a message from a girl on Facebook Messenger and she was asking me if I was talking to a boy at our school. As I do my best to be a nice person and get along with everybody, I told her that I do because it was the truth. It turned out that she didn’t like that boy and was actually targeting people who were friends with him.

She started intimidating me and sending me messages such as, “go kill yourself,” “I hate you,” and “die you horrid person.” This really upset me as she was two years above me in school and she said, “watch out when you’re in school next.” However, I wasn’t sure what I’d done wrong and these texts were very frightening and I had no idea what she would do to me. The situation continued and I was very confused and scared and I couldn’t understand why this was happening. It felt like it was going out of control and getting really intense. It caused me to self-harm and many suicidal thoughts were rushing though my brain as I felt alone and I felt like no-one cared.

It wasn’t until I found The Diana Award and I knew others were going through the same thing that I decided to stand up and to go and tell the teacher. Hearing that young people were in similar situations made me feel I wasn’t alone and that there is something I can do about it. My teacher helped me and after that happened the girl didn’t bully me or anyone else.
Around the same time, I found out my friend was also being bullied for his looks and the fact that he wasn’t “popular enough”. Since I had had my own experience with it, I helped him out and we talked a lot. It was important and helped him find his footing and find things to be happy about, which in turn also made me happy. So, this goes to show that when someone is trying to find happiness you can help them get that little extra push into that frame of mind. Hear them out, be kind, tell some jokes, and it might just be what they need to feel supported and cared about. These are the things I learned from my teachers when I was being bullied and from different charities who I turned to for advice. So, because of the help of all of these people, I was able to find a way out of my own struggle and to help out a friend, and that feels amazing.

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Andre’s Story

About two years ago I decided to post some songs that I had personally written and recorded on my YouTube channel. I love music and it is something really important to me. Posting my videos is a way in which I can share my love of music with everyone. So it was really upsetting when I started getting negative replies in the comments section. I was getting really harsh stuff, it felt like I was being terrorised by these comments. Every time I went on my computer I would see the comments and it made me feel really bad, as if I was being punished, and I felt really disappointed in myself.
It took me a few days but I finally confided in one of my friends and it was such a relief to tell someone. I had been holding everything in and it felt like ages. Sharing this experience was one of the most important things to help me understand that it wasn’t my fault and to cope with it and eventually overcome it.

My friend overheard someone at school talking about my video and we realised that it was kids from my school who were posting all the comments. They had made multiple anonymous accounts and a whole group of my classmates were posting, even during school. We went on a class trip the next day and I could tell that they were talking and laughing about it still. During the class trip my video received more negative comments and I had to disable the whole comment section in order to protect myself from the hate. They even created fake accounts in my name and posted rude things and terrible ‘joke’ versions of my song.
After a week or so of this my friend encouraged me to tell a teacher about what was going on. Because my friend was supporting me, I felt I could ask for more help and I finally did tell my teacher what was going on. The teacher sat down with one of the students who was taking part in the bullying and he shared who the other students that were posting the comments were.

Looking back on it now I know that there was no reason to feel this way, I hadn’t done anything wrong and didn’t deserve to be targeted the way I was. My mum was really surprised when I told her (once I reported it to the school) because I always keep negative things in. I would rather show my happy side and smiles to the world and I don’t like bringing anyone down or being the victim. But sometimes you need to ask for support and help and luckily my friend and my teacher made me feel that I wasn’t alone and that something would be done about the situation.

I think it’s really important the young people know about and stick to the Code of Conduct. It makes the internet a better place. I’ve come to the point now where if I see something negative or hateful about me or directed to me on the internet I just report it right away, but if everyone has guidelines and follows them it’ll lead to less cyberbullying, less negativity on the internet, and less hate. Ultimately, that’s what we want; the internet should be a place we can use safely knowing that we won’t be attacked.

My advice for anyone experiencing similar things is know that you are not alone and there is support for you. Telling someone is the best thing you can do to help yourself. Don’t suffer in silence; share and you’ll find support in others. If you put yourself in the shoes of someone who is being bullied, you’d want to feel that support from your friends. People can feel trapped and you can help them get out of it. Plus it’s nice to put a smile on someone’s face and help lift them up when they’re down. Speaking to a friend is a really good way to reach out and get the support you need, and sometimes speaking to an adult is the best way to find a solution to the problem.

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Kiri’s Story

At school, I began to be bullied. I had recently gotten braces, I had very long, wavy, thick, brown hair, I wore glasses and I was quite chubby. I was a very easy target and not being mentally well in the first place, anything that was said to me was taken personally and to heart. I was frequently called names, in school and outside of school – Facebook and Blackberry messenger were where I would find I was subject to a lot of name calling.

Many of the girls surrounding me would gossip about lies that included me, so when they would reach the teachers, they would action the lies. An example being, another classmate of mine told a lot of girls that I had nits in my hair; this was told to a parent who worked at the school. I was very poorly one day and had been taken to the schools medical room, here a teacher thought it would be best to ‘check’ my hair; this was all down to a bully who had told a lie.

The bullying was an everyday thing and although I did pluck up the courage to talk to some of the teachers at school, there was no support and I felt as though nothing I was reporting was taken seriously; I forever felt let down.

In school, my appearance and easy going attitude made me subject to bullying; I was not allowed to be different. My hair was not accepted, my braces were not accepted, and nothing about me was accepted. It was a very scary place, unfortunately, I still suffer with feeling alone and trapped; I constantly worry about my appearance too and I always wonder whether anyone is speaking about me. I feel as though not being listened too really affected me, it’s very dangerous when a bully feels as though they have a lot of power, especially as with my experience adults empowered the younger people, in a negative way.