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What is cyberbullying?

Online bullying aka cyberbullying is when someone uses technology to hurt or embarrass somebody else. Cyberbullying can take many forms, like when someone puts something online that:

  • Tries to get someone to hurt themselves;
  • Shares intimate images without consent (leaked nudes and revenge porn);
  • Encourages other people to send harmful messages to someone;
  • Most people would think is very offensive;
  • Shares someone’s sensitive private information without their permission;
  • Makes a false allegation about someone;
  • Shares confidential information about someone without their permission;
  • Puts someone down because of their colour, race, ethnic or national origins; gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability;
  • Is indecent or obscene about someone;
  • Threatens to hurt someone or damage their property.

How does cyberbullying affect me?

Digital content can be shared and seen by a lot of people almost immediately and it can be difficult to get the content deleted permanently. Access to technology means that cyberbullying can happen at any time, any place and by anyone. Like bullying, cyberbullying can make you feel sad, angry, anxious, uncomfortable, worried or scared.

If you feel that something is wrong and you’re not happy, you should speak with someone who can help you – like a teacher, counsellor, family member or other trusted friend.

What can I do if I am being cyberbullied?

  • Don’t reply: Especially to messages from phone numbers, profiles or people you don’t know.
  • Don’t attack the person back: Avoid giving the bully the satisfaction of a reaction.
  • Have a conversation: If you are comfortable, try talking to the person privately about what they’ve said or done.
  • Talk to someone: Talking to friends or whānau can make you feel better – or you can reach out to counselling services.
  • Save messages and images: Take screen shots of the bullying in case you need evidence later. Find out how here.
  • Cut off the person bullying you: Block their phone number, or block them on social media. Use privacy settings to protect what you publish.
  • Get help: Contact Netsafe for help. If you are feeling unsafe, call the Police immediately.


I sent a nude photo/video, but thought it would remain private. The other person is blackmailing me, what can I do?

If someone is blackmailing you by threatening to release a nude photo or video of you, they could be committing a criminal offence under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. You should contact the police.

I sent a nude photo/video, but thought it would remain private. It has been sent to other people, what can I do?

Someone else should not share your intimate photos/videos without your consent. If they do, this is online sexual harassment and is a criminal offence under the Harmful Digital Communications Act. You should contact the police.

Someone told me I should commit suicide, is that a crime?

It is a crime to encourage someone to commit suicide, even if the person does not attempt to take their own life.

I know about cyberbullying happening at my school, what should I do?

Schools in New Zealand should be a safe place for students. If you know about bullying at your school, you should tell a teacher or your dean about it. They should try to help stop the bullying.

Is cyberbullying a crime?

Serious cyberbullying can be a crime. If you are found guilty of cyberbullying you could be fined $50,000 or jailed for up to two years. These are the maximum sentences.

The Police may prosecute a person if the person:

  • intended the communication to cause harm; and
  • it is reasonable to expect that a person in the position of the targeted individual would be harmed by it; and
  • the targeted individual suffered serious emotional distress.

How do I complain about cyberbullying?

Serious cases of online bullying are illegal under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015. These could be things like leaked nudes, telling someone to kill themselves, and extremely offensive, abusive or harassing content.

NetSafe offers a free service in New Zealand to help with online bullying, harassment and abuse. If you or someone you know needs help, contact NetSafe by emailing or calling on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723).

Should I go to the Police about cyberbullying?

You can contact the Police if the cyberbullying threatens harm, like hurting or fighting, or if you’re being blackmailed. This is against the law. Save the evidence (screenshot) and contact the Police.

Can I get some tips on how to avoid communicating in a harmful way?

A digital communication should not:


  1. disclose sensitive personal facts about an individual;
  2. be threatening, intimidating, or menacing;
  3. be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual;
  4. be indecent or obscene;
  5. be used to harass an individual;
  6. make a false allegation;
  7. contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence;
  8. incite or encourage anyone to send a message to an individual for the purpose of causing harm to the individual;
  9. incite or encourage an individual to commit suicide; or
  10. degrade an individual because of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Where can I get help if I’m being cyberbullied?

ICON is a student led anti-cyberbullying programme. Check out the website for more information and tips about cyber bullying.


NetSafe provides information, advice and support for people with online safety issues. The website is helpful or you can call them on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723), or email

If you need some legal help, you can give us at YouthLaw a call.

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