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Cyber bullying sexting and Facebook guide. Know the law, know your rights.

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A guide to using social media safely to prevent cyber bullying and sexting, and where to get help.

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This guide is intended to provide you with information only. If you have a legal problem, you should get legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information provided is accurate as at April 2015 and does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. We are committed to providing accessible services to Queenslanders from all culturally diverse backgrounds. If you would like this publication explained in your language, please telephone the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50 to speak to an interpreter. Ask them to connect you to Legal Aid Queensland. This is a free service.

Cyber bullying

What is cyber bullying?

Cyber bullying is intentional and repeated cruel or hurtful behaviour that is carried out using technology, such as:

  • SMS or text messages
  • email
  • blogs
  • chat rooms
  • discussion boards
  • instant messaging
  • online games
  • photo sharing apps, eg Snapchat and Instagram
  • social networking sites and apps like Facebook, Twitter and

Cyber bullying can include:

  • sending cruel and threatening messages or material
  • putting embarrassing photos of people on the web
  • creating fake profiles that are mean or hurtful
  • sending unwanted messages online, teasing and making fun of others.

A cyber bully can be someone you know or a stranger.

Is cyber bullying illegal in Queensland?

Yes. Cyber bullying is a crime if it involves using the internet or a mobile phone to:

  • make threats
    this can include trying to intentionally frighten, intimidate or annoy someone by threatening to hurt them; it is also illegal to threaten to enter or damage a property
  • stalk someone
    stalking is when someone gets repeated attention that frightens or intimidates them
  • menace, harass or seriously offend someone
    this can include sending offensive messages or making posts that make someone feel extremely angry, outraged, humiliated or disgusted.

How do I stop cyber bullying?

  • Don’t give out your private information like passwords, names, addresses, phone numbers, school names, photos or family information online to people you don’t know or trust. This information can be used by bullies and others to harm you.
  • Don’t exchange photos or give your email address to people on the internet you don’t know or trust.
  • Don’t send messages when you’re angry. This can start a heated conversation that may lead to bullying.
  • Don’t reply to messages from a bully. Bullies will often get bored and stop their behaviour if you don’t respond.
  • Leave a chat room or instant message service immediately if you are feeling harassed.
  • Block the person so they can’t contact you.
  • Use caller ID blocking to hide your phone number when making calls.
  • Don’t leave your name on your voicemail.
  • Report the bully. You can anonymously report the bully and if the bully has breached a website’s terms and conditions their account may be disabled.
  • Take a screenshot to keep as evidence of the bullying.

What should I do if I am being cyber bullied?

Tell someone

Nobody should have to deal with bullying alone. Tell a trusted adult, like a parent, teacher, school counsellor, family friend, or even an older brother or sister.

If you need to talk to someone you can also call Kids Helpline or Lifeline. You can call them anytime—they are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Kids Helpline

Phone: 1800 55 1800
Visit to talk to a counsellor online or by email.


Phone: 13 11 14

Stop the activity

People who bully get their kicks from knowing they’ve upset the person they’re bullying. If you don’t let them know they’ve upset you, you will have taken away half of their fun and they are more likely to stop.

Block the sender’s messages

If you are being bullied through email or instant messaging, block the sender’s messages. Never reply to harassing messages.

Tell your school

If you are being cyber bullied by someone in your school, let a teacher, counsellor or your school principal know. Schools must provide a safe, supportive, disciplined learning environment for students—bullying is not tolerated. Schools have discipline policies, guidelines or codes of conduct to prevent or deal with any cyber bullying behaviour.

You can also report online harassment and physical threats to your local police and your Internet Service Provider.

If you are being bullied by text messages you may need to change your phone number.

What should I do if my school has not been able to stop the bullying?

You can call the Department of Education and Training’s regional office for your area and ask to speak to the manager responsible for your school. Tell the regional office manager you want to make a cyber bullying complaint that was not resolved by your school.

If the Department of Education and Training does not do anything, then you can make a complaint about the department and your school’s inaction to the Queensland Ombudsman. Call the Office of the Queensland Ombudsman on 1800 068 908 and tell them you want to make a cyber bullying complaint that was not resolved by your school or the Department of Education and Training. You can also make a complaint online on the Queensland Ombudsman’s website:

Do I need to talk to a lawyer?

Bullies can be very persistent, but if a bully receives a letter from a lawyer or is contacted by the police this will often bring an end to their bullying behaviour.

If the bully receives a letter from a lawyer this can also bring parents (and schools) into line by encouraging them to take complaints seriously and more closely supervise the bully’s activities.

Did you know in many cases cyber bullies can be sued for defamation or for inflicting emotional distress on someone? They may also be charged with various computer crimes.

Legal Aid Queensland or a community legal centre can help you understand your legal rights if you are being cyber bullied. Call Legal Aid Queensland or a community legal centre to get free legal information or advice about your situation and find out your options. These services are free for people aged 17 and under.

Legal Aid Queensland

Phone: 1300 65 11 88 (cost of a local call from a landline in Australia)

Community legal centres

To find out where your closest centre is, call Legal Aid Queensland on 1300 65 11 88 or visit the Legal Aid Queensland website


What is sexting?

 Sexting usually refers to:

  • taking naked or partially naked photos or videos of yourself (posing in a sexual way) and sending the photos via the internet or mobile phones
  • receiving or forwarding naked or partially naked photos or videos through mobile phones, internet and social networking sites such as Facebook or Instagram.

Sexting can include images from film, movies, videos, photos, and digital images sent by SMS, email, chat rooms and publishing on blogs.

Is sexting a crime?

Yes. It is illegal to create, send, possess or intend to possess images of someone aged (or who appears to be aged) under 18 (including yourself) who is:

  • involved in a sexual activity
  • in a sexual pose
  • acting in a sexual way
  • showing their sexual parts.

If you make, send or possess illegal sexting images to other people you may be charged with ‘distributing child exploitation material’ which is a serious crime.

If you are found guilty of this offence you could be sentenced to up to seven years in jail if you are aged 16 or under, or 14 years in jail if you are aged 17 or older.

You will not get into trouble if you were sent sexting images without asking for them and you deleted the images as soon as you could.

Can a child be convicted of a sexting crime?

Yes. If you are aged 10 or older you can be charged with a criminal offence for possessing ‘child exploitation materials’.

What should I do if I have received a photo or video?

If you receive images over the internet or on your mobile phone that contain naked or partially naked photos or videos of another person posing in a sexual way:

  • Delete the images immediately.
  • Tell the person to stop sending you images and tell a trusted adult (such as your parents, a teacher or school counsellor) about the images.
  • If the person continues to send you images, report them to the police.
  • Don’t forward these images onto other people as you may be charged with distributing child exploitation material.

It is important to respect other people’s choices and their right to privacy and dignity.

What are the dangers with sexting?

One of the dangers with sexting (apart from it possibly being a crime) is that photos or videos of you can be easily distributed without your knowledge or control.

If you post images or video of yourself or another person online, there is no way to guarantee other people won’t be able to access it. You may not be able to control who sees the photos or videos. If in doubt, do not post.

It is completely normal to want to express your sexuality, but it is important you do so in a way that is safe. You need to be aware of all the possible consequences of your actions if you share images of yourself online:

  • Other people may view the images differently and you may become the target of verbal or even physical abuse.
  • You may only be sending the image to your closest friend/boyfriend/girlfriend, but consider what would happen if their phone was stolen or their email account was hacked—your images can be forwarded onto many more people.
  • If you break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend, they might share your picture with other people.
  • How would you feel if your family, teachers and friends were to receive those pictures?If you feel uncomfortable then it is best not to take the photo.
  • If your images are available on the internet, an employer may be able to access these images. This may have an impact on you being able to get a job in the future.
  • Predators on the internet may be able to access your images.

How can I prevent my photos getting into the wrong hands?

  • Keep your phone, internet and social media usernames and passwords secret.
  • You should change your passwords regularly.
  • Do not upload sexting images or videos of yourself online.
  • Ask yourself “Can I trust the person I am sending my photos to?”. This is important because once you send the photos to someone you cannot control who they forward them on to.
  • Only accept friend requests from people you know.
  • Review your privacy settings often.

Someone has shared a private photo of me. What can I do?

If someone has shared a photo of you without your consent, there are a number of things you can do:

  • If the image is on a social networking site like Facebook, you can report the image to Facebook and ask for it to be removed.
  • Talk to someone you trust—a parent, friend, school counsellor or teacher.
  • If the images are being spread without your consent, you should contact the police.


It’s important to remember that any information, photos or videos you post on Facebook might be copied, pasted, shared and distributed to other people.
Before you post, ask yourself “how would I feel if this content was shared widely at school or with my future employer?”.

Someone is abusing me on Facebook. What can I do?

If you receive abusive or offensive messages, photos or posts on your Facebook profile page you can:

  • unfriend the person to remove them from your friend list
  • block them so they can’t contact you
  • save evidence of the abuse by taking a screen shot or print screen of the message so you can show a trusted adult (such as your parents or a teacher)
  • report the abusive content to Facebook and include the screen shot as evidence of the abuse.

Facebook will remove content that doesn’t follow its terms and conditions (eg nudity, bullying, graphic violence, spam). Use the ‘Report’ link near the photo or post to report the abusive or inappropriate content to Facebook. Reporting is confidential so no one will know who made the report.

Facebook will review the reported material and remove anything that violates their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. If warranted, they will also warn
the person responsible and could even disable their account.

You should also review your privacy settings to control who can see your profile and posts.

I have seen inappropriate content on Facebook. What can I do?

Nudity, hate speech, threats, graphic violence, bullying and spam are not allowed on Facebook. If you see any inappropriate content (eg a photo, video, post, page,
group or event) on Facebook you can:

  • send a message to the person responsible for posting whatever is bothering you and ask them to take it down
  • edit your news feed to hide the person’s content
  • unfriend the person to remove them from your friend list
  • block the person from contacting you
  • report the inappropriate content to Facebook
  • use privacy settings to control what you see and how much information you share
  • make sure your age is set to your real age. The ads you see on Facebook
  • are tailored to you, based on the age you list on your profile.

Someone has created a fake account that is pretending to be me. What can I do?

Facebook does not allow people to create fake profiles to imitate real people. If someone has created a Facebook account pretending to be you, you can report
this fake account to Facebook.

As Facebook’s layout and menu content changes over time the best way to find out how to report a fake account is via the ‘Help’ section.

Select the ‘Help’ link at the bottom of the Facebook homepage. In the search field type ‘fake account’. The search results will provide instructions on how to report
a fake account.

How do I report a fake account if I am not on Facebook?

If someone created a Facebook profile pretending to be you and you don’t have a Facebook account, you can still file a report with Facebook:

  1. Go to the Facebook website
  2. Click on the ‘Help’ link at the bottom of the Facebook page.
  3. In the search field type ‘fake account’. The search results will provide instructions on how to report a fake account to Facebook. Follow the instructions provided.

Remember, reporting is confidential, so no one will know who made the report.

How do I control who sees my Facebook information?

Use your privacy settings to control who gets to see your posts and timeline. You can also specify privacy for a specific message or post, and control how much information you share with applications (such as games and quizzes).

To check your privacy settings, click ‘Account’ at the top of any page and select ‘Privacy Settings’ in the dropdown menu that appears.

More information

The Advocacy & Support Centre (TASC)

223 Hume St Toowoomba Qld
Phone: 1300 008 272 or 07 4616 9700

Legal Aid Queensland

Phone: 1300 65 11 88
Legal Aid Queensland has 14 offices across Queensland. Visit the website to find your nearest office.


Phone: 1800 012 255 (24hrs, 7 days)
ATSILS has offices across Queensland. Visit the website to find your nearest office.

Community Legal Centres Queensland
To find out where your closest community legal centre is visit the Community Legal Centres Queensland website.

Kids Help Line

Phone: 1800 55 1800


Phone: 13 11 14

Useful websites

There are lots of good websites that explain how to be cyber smart. Have a look at:

Last updated 10 October 2019

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