What is online harassment?

Online harassment is inappropriate and unwanted behaviour that appears or feels offensive, intimidating, or hostile to the recipient.
Online harassment or bullying can include:
  1. Cyberbullying is derogatory or offensive material and content such as memes, videos, picture, altered images. This can include captions and or comments that attacks another person or group.
  2. Cyberstalking is systematically and repeatedly harass, threaten or intimidate someone. There are many ways this can be done. Some popular forms are through email, social media or chat platforms.
  3. Trolling makes unsolicited comments in an online community that are random or controversial, in order to provoke emotion.
  4. Excluding intentionally leaves someone out of a group such as group messages, online apps, gaming sites and other online engagement. 
  5. Online Impersonation uses the name or persona of someone online without their consent with the intent to harm, intimidate, defraud or threaten the person.
  6. Catfishing creates a fictitious identity for the purpose of starting a relationship. This scam has become more and more common in online dating.
  7. Doxxing publishes personal information about someone else online with the intention of others harassing them. This could include anything from their address to phone number to information about their family.
  8. Revenge porn is non-consensual pornography and the act of distributing private, sexually explicit images or videos without the person’s consent.
  9. Dogpiling occurs when a comment thread is inundated by a horde of people who post insults designed to make the person take back your opinion or scare them.
  10. Hate speech is abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race (including Caste), religion, or sexual orientation. 
  11. Virtual Bombings (aka zoombombing) uninvited guests in a virtual forum platform (ie Zoom) post shocking imagery for all to see, such as extreme violence and pornography. 

Online harassment can happen in:
  1. Unsolicited posts and comments on social media
  2. Emails sent directly or to others
  3. Text messages
  4. Graphic images and posts directed at the victim
  5. Group chats and other online platforms such as Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, Discord, Twitch, House Party, Tik-Tok etc.

Ways to prevent 

  • Privatise your accounts – make sure every single account is private so only close friends and family can access your information.
  • Never give out personal information as a status update or in a chat group. Don’t even put it in your “About” page on social media. If someone needs personal information, give them a phone call.
  • Don’t add people to your friend’s list if you are unsure of who they are.
  • Beware of fake accounts. Accounts where someone has no friends or maybe just 5 are probably fake and are being used to stalk you. 
  • Don’t initiate contact with people who don’t know you.
By setting all your online accounts to “private” you dramatically reduce the number of people who have access to your public information. If your profile is set to private, no one can see your photos or posts. They cannot find your email address and will not be able to comment on anything unless you permit them.

What to do 

  • Don’t Reply to messages that harass or annoy you. Even though you may really want to, this is exactly what the sender wants. Put down your phone or take a step back. Responding immediately can sometimes makes the situation even worse, particularly in serious cases of harassment. 
  • Keep the Message. You don’t have to read it, but keep it. If you keep getting messages that are offensive, intimidating, or hostile to you, it will help if you have evidence if you decide to take action against the person. Website owners, mobile phone companies and the police will all look for evidence before they will be able to take any action to help you. If you decide you want the University to take disciplinary action against them, having evidence will help support your case. 
  • Block the Sender. You don’t need to put up with someone harassing you. If you are getting harassing messages, block the person. All popular social networks and messaging apps allow users to block other users. On most social media it is straightforward and can be done through the app settings or on the user’s profile. If you care getting text messages, some mobile phones can block a number from calling or texting you. 
  • Talk to someone you trust, and get support. Speaking to someone you trust is a good first step in dealing with any issue. You can seek support from a Student Life Adviser to talk about it and go through your options. Just use the Report and Support reporting tool, and you can get support.
  • Report the Problem. You can take control, by not putting up with offensive content by reporting it when you come across it. Responsible websites, social media and mobile phone operators provide ways for their users to report things such as inappropriate content, cyberbullying or hate speech and or other offensive material.


  • Report to the University and get Support. Students and staff can report an incident using the University’s Report and Support system. You can choose to do this anonymously or you can request support from an adviser. If you choose to talk to an adviser they will be able to talk through the options and support available to you, in confidence. 
  •  University Policies. If you choose to make a formal complaint to the University about a student or member of staff there are procedures which set out the steps you'll need to follow. 


For Students
  • Talk to a friend. Talking things through with someone you trust can sometimes help. 
  • Speak Up & Stay Safe(r). A guide to protecting yourself from online harassment.
  • Student Life Adviser. An adviser can talk through the University's procedures, how to make a complaint and what support is available, in confidence. 
  • Residential Life Team. Whether it is your neighbourhood Student Services Resident (SSR) or the Duty SSR, if you are living in UEA residences there is someone to talk to.   
  • The uea(su) Advice Service is a free, confidential service. Advisers can support students who have been named in a disciplinary report for breach of the General Regulations for Students, and can talk through the procedure, what options are available and help you complain if you are unhappy with the process.  
  • Exceptional circumstances. If you feel your studies have been affected by what has happened you can consider applying for exceptional circumstances.
For Staff
  • Human Resource Adviser. An adviser can talk through the options available whether the incident involved another staff member at UEA, a student, or a visitor to campus. 
  • Health Assured - Employee Assistance Programme. This free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year service is available to all UEA staff. The programme offers confidential support independent from UEA, with professional consultation, counselling, information, resources and referrals to services in your local area.

Find out what other support is available

Helping Others 

Worried about someone else?

If you think someone you know is being bullied or harassed online there are lots of ways in which you can help them. Understanding the behaviours associated with bullying and harassment is a good place to start. Most people will be able to describe what has or is happening to them and how it's making them feel. 

You can find more information and advice on the I'm worried about someone else page. 

There are two ways you can tell us what happened