Harassment and online bullying

Harassment is unwanted behaviour which you find offensive or which makes you feel intimidated or humiliated. It is behaviour which is meant to, or has the effect of, either violating your dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile or humiliating environment. 

Behaviour can include (but isn't limited to):

  • Spoken or written words or abuse
  • Images or graffiti
  • Damaging property

The behaviour has to have happened towards you more than twice and the two incidents must be related.

Harassment can be a criminal offence or a civil one meaning you can report it to the Police and you can also take action against the person in civil court. You can find out more about civil action on the Citizen's Advice website.

Is it more than bullying or harassment?

Some harassment can also be considered as another type of crime. 

If you're being harassed because of your disability, race, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation, this can be considered a hate incident or crime. You can find out more about this in the hate crime section. 

If a person has published, shared, or discloses a private sexual photograph or film without the consent of the person in that photograph or film, this is considered revenge pornography which is a crime. 

There are similarities between harassment and stalking. You can find out more about stalking in the 'about stalking' section. 

To report a crime to Sussex Police you can either ring 101 (or 999 in an emergency) or fill out the online reporting form.

If you have been a victim of any crime there is various support out there to help you move on and recover from the impact of the crime. You can find support near you by typing a search term in the Safe Space Sussex search bar above.

You can find more information under our Frequently Asked Questions.

Social media (including WhatsApp)


Facebook do not tolerate bullying or harassment, hate speech, fraud or spam. Within their community standards they will list the content that they will remove. They also give you tools of how you can control what you see. If you see something that you don't like, then you should select the report button.


YouTube does not condone content that promotes violence again anyone based on core characteristics including age and veteran status. If someone has left a comment on your video, you are able to delete and block that person. However, if you see something you don't like you can also report the channel, the playlist, and individual comments by clicking report or on the flag.


Instagram does not condone any encouragement or attack on anyone based on their core characteristics, as well as diseases. You can report anything in their built in reporting option.


Twitter does not tolerate harassment or hateful conduct on core characteristics as well as disease. They also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm based on these categories. Twitter explains their range of enforcement options which range from remove the offending tweet before they can tweet again to removing their account altogether. For any links or images that may be promoting or containing child sexual exploitation they will be removed without notice and reported direction to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited children. The accounts containing these will be permanently suspended. To report on twitter, you will need to select the report directly from that tweet or profile or by selecting report or clicking the flag sign.


Snapchat does not tolerate bullying or harassment, including contacting people from another account if you block them. They are also not tolerant of any content that discriminates based on the core characteristics as well as veteran status. You can report on Snapchat by pressing down on the snap (or chat), clicking options and then report.


Submitting content (in the status, profile photos or messages) that is illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, intimidating, harassing, hateful, racially, or ethnically offensive, or instigates or encourages conduct that would be illegal, or otherwise inappropriate violates Whatsapp Terms of Service. If a user is violating these terms, then they can be banned. You can send reports to WhatsApp, through the app by selecting settings and then 'contact us'.

If you believe you are being stalked through social media, you can find out more information about how to deal with this on our cyber stalking page. It is not advisable to block any online communication from a stalker, but to mute instead.

Information for parents

It is worth knowing the age limits on social media sites. Most are 13 years upwards with some asking for parental consent.

To increase your child's online security

  • Set their privacy settings to medium or high. Without updating their privacy settings, anyone can contact them and their profile information is visible. All social media sites will have different rules as to how they do this. You might have to hide their profile, as well as stopping other people from 'tagging' you
  • Explain to them that they should not share personal information, such as address, school, parents name etc, with people they do not know.
  • Children often share their passwords. Know your child's passwords and discuss that passwords are "secret" words and should not be shared with friends.
  • Children sometimes leave themselves signed in at friend's house on someone else's mobile device or computer. We suggest that you remind them to always be sure to log out so others don't have access to their information and settings.
  • If your child receives an unwanted friend invitation be sure to explain to them to ignore the request and also block this person from contacting again. Remind them of the dangers of having strangers as friends online.

Parental controls

You can also increase the parental controls on laptop, computers and other devices. The Think U Know guide provides more detail about this and you can find instructions on how to set these up on devices on Internet Matters. 

Child exploitation

If your child has experienced sexual or offensive chat that has made them feel uncomfortable or someone is trying to meet up with them, you can report this directly to the Child Expolitation & Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

There is also additional information around exploitation on our Child Sexual Exploitation page.

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