Cyberbullying, online bullying, is sadly a potential feature of life for anyone who is in any way connected to the internet. Whether this be on social media sites, websites, YouTube, phone messaging, chatrooms and online gaming. It can take the form of ‘befriending’ then gaslighting, sharing personal information without our consent, using a fake identity to get to know us or sending offensive and threatening messages and pictures. All of these and more are cyberbullying and cyberbullying is against UK Law. The law states that using the telephone or internet to cause ‘alarm and distress’.

For autistics, ADHDers and other disabled people, particularly children and young adults, it is considered to be an even greater problem than for most, with the Safer Schools website claiming that 75% of autistic people between the age of 12 and 20 have experienced cyberbullying, compared to non-autistic young people who, even at 29%, are still experiencing an unacceptable level of cyberbullying. No level is acceptable, of course.

Autistic people of all ages often find it harder to read social cues that would warn us that someone doesn’t have our interests at heart. It is very easy to get sucked into a situation and then not know how to get out of it. Like bullying in the real world, cyberbullies make a beeline for people with differences. It can be so damaging and stressful to us that it can lead to depression, isolation and suicide.

What is particularly cruel is that so many of us rely on our social connections online to find and sustain friendships, communities, shared interests, gaming, to name but a few. So we are more vulnerable to cyberbullying in numerous ways.

Cyberbullying should not deter us from using this vital connection for many of us. We just need to take sensible precautions and not be afraid to report the perpetrators.  The FamilyLives website has lots of useful information on cyberbullying, as well as how to deal with and recover from bullying in the school and workplace.

Please also read the entry on bullying, where you will find helplines if you are experiencing ANY form of bullying at ANY age.