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Young people suffer big rise in online bullying, watchdog warns

Ofcom report comes amid fears over protection of children on social media. 


The bullying of young people online and in text messages has grown significantly worse in recent years, according to the UK’s media watchdog.

An Ofcom report published on Tuesday found that the proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds who said they had been bullied over text messages and apps increased from only 2% in 2016 to 9% last year, while the proportion of those who reported having been bullied on social media nearly doubled from 6% to 11% in the same period.

The research suggested many young people felt the need to use multiple social media profiles set to be visible to different groups of people to project different images to each social group.

“Children posted different content on these profiles depending on who they allowed to see each profile; more visible accounts tended to be more highly curated, showing a ‘picture-perfect’ self, while less visible accounts tended to be used to show their ‘real self’ to more carefully controlled circles of close friends,” the report said. 

While the proportions are relatively low, the news of the sharp increase coincides with a debate over the role of social media firms in protecting young people online. On Monday, Facebook’s new head of global affairs, the former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, told the BBC the company would do “whatever it takes” to do so.

He was responding to questions about the case of 14-year-old Molly Russell, who took her own life in 2017. After her death, her account on Instagram – owned by Facebook – was found to contain material about depression and suicide.

That led the health secretary, Matthew Hancock, to warn Facebook and other social firms that he would seek ways to use the law to force them to act over such content, should they refuse to take sufficient action voluntarily.

If you are experiencing Cyberbullying in any degree, please use the read the following: 

  • Tell an adult you trust if you are being cyberbullied
  • Block users who send you nasty messages

  • Save/screenshot abusive emails or messages (or texts) you receive

  •  Make a note of dates and times you receive bullying messages, as well as details you have of the user’s ID and the url

  •  If you are bullied repeatedly change your user ID, or profile,  and use a name that doesn’t give any information away about you

  • Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email
  •  Visit – this is a website where trained counsellors can support you if you are being bullied, either by chatting online or by calling their free helpline. You can also find some top tips on how to stay safe –
  • You can talk to someone at Child Line or get online safety advice at
  • is another very useful website for children and young people staying safe online