Privacy Settings, Social Media and Online Bullying

Abusive behaviour online can take many forms, including:

Cyberstalking: The online version of stalking. It includes unwanted phone or electronic communication, but it does not need to be harassing in content.  For example, sending hundreds of messages to a victim professing romantic love (rather than being intrinsically threatening) may be illegal. It also includes unauthorised access of another person’s computer, so do not use another person’s password without their consent.  Many people don’t realise that you could be committing a crime if you access another person’s computer without consent.  It is important that you do not access other people’s computers without their consent, for example by using their password.  This also includes not accessing any online profiles that they may have, such as Facebook or online dating profiles, and certainly do not make any changes to such profiles without their consent.

Cyberstalking may also constitute family violence.  If you are fleeing a family violence situation, be aware that your location may be tracked through sophisticated GPS on your smart phone or that your online profiles may indicate where you are located.  It is often advisable to turn your phone off and to remove personal information from the internet.  Also remember that where a protection order is in place, it is illegal for your former partner to contact you including by using Facebook or other online communications.  It is important that you do not delete these messages and that you provide details to the police as they can be an important part of the prosecution process.

Cyberbullying: online harassment designed to humiliate, control or scare the person being targeted. It is illegal and can involve checking your email without permission, impersonating you or hacking into your online accounts, spreading rumours about you online or sharing photos or videos of you without your consent.

The media tends to focus on cyberbullying as it affects children and teenagers, but it also happens to older people. One clear difference is that just like physical abuse, online bullying of older people tends be done by family members. Cyberbullying (usually by email) most commonly involves:

  • Emotional abuse with rage, threats, accusations, and belittling comments, often followed with periods of silence or ignoring the victim.
  • Financial abuse aimed at finding their account information, setting up online access to their accounts, and stealing their money.

What can I do to avoid being targeted?

Adjust your privacy settings


Having appropriate privacy settings on any social media websites you use (such as Facebook and Twitter) is essential to ensure only people you know and trust can access your profiles and communicate with you. For example, on Facebook you can choose who can see your photos and who can send you messages.

Click here to read an article showing you how to adjust your privacy settings on popular social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.

Protect your accounts with strong passwords

Having a strong password is essential to protect your online accounts. Many passwords are easily hacked, allowing criminals to potentially access your financial, email and social media accounts and all of your personal information.

Online security application provider SplashData released a list of the 25 most hacked passwords of 2014. If you can spot any of your passwords in this list, it’s time to upgrade to a stronger password!

Here are the top 10 worst passwords of 2014:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. qwerty
  6. 123456789
  7. 1234
  8. baseball
  9. dragon
  10. football

Computer hackers use specially-designed software than can guess thousands of passwords a minute, so creating a strong password that is secret and only known by you (and not easily guessed) is essential.

Here are some tips to create a strong password:

Passwords should be:

  • greater than 10 characters long
  • a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and alpha numeric characters.

They should not include:

  • recognisable words or names, in any language
  • repeated characters
  • personal information
  • anything you have previously used

Click here for further tips on how to create a strong password that is easily remembered.

What to do if someone is harassing you online

It is a crime under both ACT and national laws to harass someone online, and can even carry a gaol sentence. Numerous people have now been prosecuted under these laws.

See our Where to Get Help page for advice on how to get help and put a stop to the online harassment.