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Online Harassment

Online communication and social media have so many benefits. It is fast, easy and reliable, it helps us to keep in touch with friends and family whatever the time and wherever they may be in the world. It allows us access to news instantly and gives us a vast amount of information at our fingertips.

Despite these benefits, there is also a negative side to online communication and social media. A recent Universities UK report highlighted that social media has a near-universal reach with 99% of 16-24-year-olds use social medial at least once a week. However, 50% of young people have experienced on-line bullying before the age of 25.

What is online harassment or cyberbullying?

Online harassment is the use of networked technologies (such as a smartphone, computer or tablet) to direct offensive, abusive, insulting or threatening words or images at an individual and/or group, in ways that are likely to cause them alarm or distress, intentionally or otherwise.

The most common places where online harassment occurs are:

  • Social media (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter)
  • SMS (Short Message Service) also known as Text Message sent through networked devices, such as a smartphone
  • Instant Message (via email, apps, and social media messaging features)
  • Email

Negative effects of online harassment

Anyone affected by online harassment may experience a range of physical, psychological and emotional effects, which can include:

  • Stress, anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Suicidal thoughts and self-harm
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feelings of powerlessness
  • Changes in sleep and eating patterns
  • Hypervigilance
  • Fear for safety

Forms of Online Harassment

As social networking continues to expand so does online harassment. Some forms of online harassment can include:

  • Cyberstalking is repeated and deliberate use of the internet and social media to engage in persistent, unwanted communication intending to frighten, intimidate or harass someone. Cyberstalkers can be either strangers or quite often, are people that are known to the individual including ex-partners. Motives may be to control or intimidate you or to gather information for use in other crimes, like identity theft or offline stalking.
  • This is the exchange of online sexual images or videos. Where sexual photos of adults are shared online between adults (that is, over 18), without permission of the person/people photographed, this is usually classified as ‘revenge porn’. It is illegal to share sexual photos of under 18s and is classed as child abuse.
  • Trolling is the sending or posting of deliberately inflammatory, inappropriate or controversial messages or comments on the internet in order to deliberately upset and provoke responses from other internet users. Trolls will often say something controversial in order to elicit a response from others.
  • Virtual Mobbing is where a person tries to attract attention to someone else by getting other people to bully a person for example by using hashtags to encourage other

If you have experienced any of the above during your time at university you can now report this harassment via our online platform Report + Support. When you report an incident you will then be contacted by a Wellbeing Advisor who can offer support and guidance. You can also choose to report anonymously. 

Report + Support

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