Bullying on social networks

10min read

With the increase of social networking sites, online activity and messaging apps, cyberbullying is on the increase. At least two million British children experience online bullying each year, with more than a quarter of them finding it to be worse during lockdowns compared to when schools are open, according to research by USwitch. Most of the apps and social networking sites are for people aged 13 and over. They also state that bullying, abusive behaviours which includes harassment and impersonation will result in the account becoming shut down and the user banned. A general rule when making a complaint about being bullied online is to copy the terms and conditions which have been breached and take a screenshot of the comment or photo as evidence.

Key Points:

  • Don't get into arguments online, this is called flaming and it can get nasty. If you break the rules of whichever site you're on then the content is likely to be removed and you might have your membership terminated
  • You can report bullying to an organisation called Report Harmful Content online and they can help to get things taken down
  • Be wary of using hashtags as that can open up your post to be visible on that particular hashtag thread on any social network or app

Reporting bullying on social media


Facebook does not tolerate bullying and say they will remove bullying content when they become aware of it and may disable the account of anyone who bullies or attacks another. They have a set of community standards that they adhere to and it states that they will not tolerate bullying in any shape or form.

You can report bullying on Facebook using the report links which appear near the content itself, as 3 dots and will give you an option to hide or report the comment or post. They will investigate and let you know their outcome. You may want to read their help pages on bullying. 


If you receive a tweet or reply that you don't like, you can unfollow that person. If they continue to contact you, you can block the user (just click on the head icon on their profile and select block user). You may find that as they are unable to get through to you, they will lose interest. However, if this is not the case and you continue to receive unwanted replies, abuse or threats, please read X's advice on reporting abusive behaviour.  

On X you can choose to protect your tweets so that people can only follow you if you approve them first. You can select this by going into the 'settings menu' then 'security and privacy' and ticking the box for 'protect my tweets'. Find out more about the difference on X between public and protected tweets. You may find it helpful to read their advice on bullying


You have every right to use YouTube without fear of being subjected to bullying or harassment. Bullying can be reported and action taken when things cross a line. To flag a video you think is inappropriate (click on the little flag bottom right of the video) and YouTube will take a look at it to see whether it breaks their terms of use. If it does then they will remove it. YouTube rules say you can't upload videos with hate content, nudity or graphic violence and if you find one on someone else's space, click on the video to flag it as inappropriate. If under comments, you are being bullied, harassed or threats are being made, they have a reporting tool page where you can report the bullying and they will investigate.


Bullying or abuse on Instagram can happen in many ways. It can be either negative comments, fake profiles or hacking of accounts. Instagram take all of these violations very seriously and have plenty of advice on their pages if you or someone you know is being bullied or abused on Instagram. Their advice initially is to block and unfollow the person who is being abusive. However, if it continues or it has gotten worse, you can use their in-app reporting tool. This page has details on how to report the abuse directly to them.  


Snapchat is an app that allows users to send pictures to each other that disappear off screen within a set amount of time. Unfortunately, there is bullying on Snapchat in the form of screenshots, sending pics without permission, negative comments and more. If this is the case for you or someone you know they can block a user, tap the Menu icon, select “My Friends,” locate their name in the list and swipe right across their name. If you would like to delete a friend from your contacts, press “Delete.” Even if you haven’t added the user as a friend, their name will still appear in the “My Friends” list under “Recent” if they have sent you a message recently. If you receive an inappropriate photo or someone's harassing or bullying you, report it by filling out their online form.


TikTok is a fun app for many young people. It has increased in popularity and is a platform that allows users to create short videos incorporating music. If you are worried about your child experiencing bullying on TikTok, visit their safety centre first and foremost. If you want to report bullying directly to them, please click here. There are some safety points to consider when using this app. Ensure that all privacy and security settings are checked and are private rather then public. When your profile is private, you have the ability to approve or deny any followers from viewing your content. If comments are made on your video, you have the ability to delete it. If someone is making you feel upset or they are being inappropriate, you can block them too. Ensure as a parent that you have access to your child's account so that can monitor it fully. Please remember that this app is for those aged 13 and over. if you suspect that someone under this age are using it, you can report this by clicking here

If you are a parent or guardian, you can use Family Pairing to link your account to your teen's account. Once you turn it on, you will be able to set controls including screen time, restricted mode, search functions, privacy settings, messages, comments and more. 


WhatsApp Messenger lets people sends instant messages, videos, photos, and short audio messages to either one person or within a group chat. Messages can only be sent to other smartphone users who also have WhatsApp. Once you install the app, it checks your address book to see if anyone else you know is already using WhatsApp, and connects you automatically. You have to be over 16 to use WhatsApp legally. Bullying can take many forms as it is a messaging service and we often hear of abusive group chats. You can block and delete the contact. You can find out more by emailing them at support@whatsapp.com.

Keep it private

Don’t post anything on a social networking site which gives your real name, address, school, phone number or which will allow a stranger to contact you in real life. Make sure you don't ID your friends either.

Don't upload anything that might embarrass you at a later date. You might not realise it but things you post on the internet now could come back to cause problems for you later on, for instance when you go for an interview for college or a job. So if you are not happy for it to be shown to the world then do not hit send. Remember once you send it you have lost control of that image or comment.

Never be pressured into taking pictures of yourself that you wouldn't want other people to see. Trust your gut instinct over this. Once again, once you hit send, you have lost control over that picture and this can cause anxiety and stress.

If you're using a shared computer at school, in an internet cafe or library then you'll stay logged on even when you close the browser. So don't forget to log off when you've finished the session. Read more tips about staying safe online.

Location settings

Many social networks allow you to post your location or check in each time you tweet or post a status update. To turn off the location settings, go into the settings or privacy menu and double check. 

Snapchat has developed a feature called Snap Map which can show your location. It is very important to turn this feature off so you are able to keep safe. Snap Map tracks your current location and places your avatar on a map like a pin. This can allow others to zoom in and find exactly where you are. It doesn't take effect until you update the app, and it has an opt-out option. If you’re opening the app for the first time after the update, Snapchat will walk you through a step-by-step tutorial on how to use the Snap Map. First, it’ll show you how to pinch and zoom in the camera tool to access the map. Then, it’ll ask who you want to see your location. You get three choices: all your friends, select friends, or only me. Choosing 'only me' activates what it calls 'ghost mode' meaning you can see others but they can't see you. To turn off location data altogether, you’ll need to visit your phone's settings where you can scroll down to Snapchat, click on 'location', and choose to never share.

Inappropriate behaviour

If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed online then please tell your parents or someone that can help. If they're doing it to you then they might also be doing it to other people. It's particularly important never to meet up with anyone you meet online in real life, if anyone suggests that to you and particularly if they suggest you keep it secret that's a real danger sign. 

When you go into a social networking site people might approach you to be a friend but remember that no matter how much they tell you about themselves, they are still strangers and they might not be telling you the truth about themselves. There have been cases of adults pretending to be young people to chat to them online and try and involve you in inappropriate activities. This is called grooming and is a criminal offence. CEOP (The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) investigates cases of sex abuse and grooming on the internet. Incidents can be reported by clicking the red button on the top right hand corner of the CEOP website.

Although the police can get information from your computer's hard drive, it's helpful if you don't delete anything you think is dodgy until the police have decided whether they need it as evidence.

Removing or blocking friends

Facebook - click on their profile, then on the 'message' button dropdown and you will see the option to 'unfriend'. You can also block a person this way.

X - to remove or block someone on X, click on the button with a head icon on it next to the ‘Follow’ button on a user’s profile. If you click on this you will see a menu with the options to BLOCK the user to prevent them from seeing your profile, and vice versa, and you can also REPORT FOR SPAM, which will alert Twitter to any users who are abusing the service. 

YouTube - go to your account page and click on "All Contacts" link in the "Friends and Contacts" section. Choose which person you want to unfriend and the click on "Remove Contacts". From then on the person won't be on your "Share Video" list.

WhatsApp – You can click on the name and then you will be taken to a dropdown menu and you can then choose to block the person.

Snapchat – to block a user who added you follow the steps below. Tap 'Added Me' on the Profile Screen. Then tap their name, and tap the wheel icon next to their name. Press 'Block' to prevent them from sending you Snaps, Chats, or from viewing your Stories.

Instagram – when you block someone, they can't see your profile or posts. People aren't notified when you block them. To block or unblock someone, tap their username to open their profile and then tap the three dots and press the option to block user.

Closing your account

Facebook - to deactivate your Facebook account go to the "settings" tab on the Account page. That will remove your profile and content and nobody will be able to see your details or search for you. But if you decide to reinstate the account later then the whole lot will be restored, including your friends and photos. If you would like to permanently delete your Facebook account, log in to your account, click ‘Privacy and Settings’, ‘See More Settings’ and select ‘Delete my account’. Once you have confirmed your wish to delete your Facebook account it can take up to fourteen days for it to happen. 

X - on the settings tab on your profile, you will see 'deactivate my account' at the bottom. Click on this to delete your account. You have 30 days to change your mind otherwise your profile, all of your tweets and data will be permanently deleted. 

YouTube - click on "My Account" in the top right hand corner and under "Account Settings" click on "Delete Account". Give the reason you're quitting the site and your password and then click "Delete My Account". Log out by clicking the link in the top right hand corner. Your videos will be removed from the site immediately and the thumbnails will disappear as soon as YouTube is updated. Your profile is removed permanently. 

WhatsApp – you can remove the app from your smartphone either through app management in settings or by going into the settings of WhatsApp.

Snapchat - Open the Snapchat app, login and tap the Settings icon in the upper right corner. Navigate to Support and then Learning the Basics and then click on delete an account.

Instagram - Log into Instagram from a mobile browser or computer. You can't temporarily disable your account from within the Instagram app. Click your username in the top right and then select Edit Profile. Click temporarily disable my account in the bottom right and follow the on-screen instructions. If you want to delete your account permanently, go to the Delete Your Account page. If you're not logged into Instagram on the web, you'll be asked to log in first. Select an option from the drop-down menu next to Why are you deleting your account? And re-enter your password. The option to permanently delete your account will only appear after you've selected a reason from the menu. Click or tap permanently delete my account.

Posting offensive comments or posts

Don't get into arguments online, this is called flaming and it can get nasty. If you break the rules of whichever site you're on then the content is likely to be removed and you might have your membership terminated. You're not allowed to upload anything which is offensive or racist and which promotes physical harm so don't make threats to anyone. Neither are you allowed to harass people or to encourage other people to harass them. 

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at askus@familylives.org.uk. You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting. 

Other organisations that can help

You can report bullying to an organisation called Report Harmful Content online and they can help to get things taken down.

Internet Matters provides some helpful guiance on cyberbullying. 

Bullying and mental health

Mental health


Health and wellbeing

Types of bullying

Bullying and school

Impact of social media, online

Understanding bullying