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Is Cyberbullying Worse than Physical Bullying?

Cyberbullying has received increased attention of late. One of the most common questions that gets asked is "Is cyberbullying worse than physical bullying?"

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might think...

Cyberbullying can be just as bad, if not worse than any other type of bullying because it doesn't stop at school or home and follows people wherever they go - sometimes both online and off.

What is cyberbullying and how does it differ from physical bullying?

Physical bullying and cyberbullying are very different from one another, however, they both revolve around hurting someone's feelings or making them feel uncomfortable in some way.

Both take place away from the eyes of parents and teachers (figures of authority), meaning many young people who suffer physical and/or cyberbullying do not tell anyone until it reaches crisis point.

Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology such as mobile phones, computers, and the internet.

It can happen through sending text messages or instant messaging, posting on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, sending e-mails, through digital pictures taken on camera phones, videos of people being bullied posted onto social networking sites like Youtube, etc.

Physical bullying leaves visible marks and scars while cyberbullying is hard to see and can affect people in different ways.

While physical bullying is easily recognised when someone has been physically hurt, it can be harder for people to notice that they have been cyberbullied.

Physical bullying happens in person and usually leaves visible marks or scars on the victim. Physical bullying also stops at school or home, which means that children who are being bullied need only to avoid their bullies for a few hours before they are safe at home.

While physical bullying is less likely to continue outside school, this is not unheard of and can mean that victims of physical bullying may never go anywhere without worrying that they'll be bullied again.

Physical bullying can also traumatise people and leave them with lasting scars.

What can children do if they are being bullied?

Physical bullying:

  • Report it to a teacher, parent, or another responsible adult.
  • Stay away from the person bullying you if possible and avoid schools or places where you know they will be.
  • If you are being physically hurt, it's okay to fight back - defend yourself whatever way you can.
  • Keep a record of all bullying incidents by writing them down in a diary or on a scrap of paper in your pocket - this will help to keep track of what has happened.


  • Don't retaliate or reply, even if the cyberbully writes something about you on a social networking site that you are on - blocking them or reporting them to the website doesn't always stop them from writing more things about you.
  • If you are being cyberbullied, try to safely save any messages that the bully(s) send you or post about you before deleting them.
  • Keep a record of all offensive messages sent or posted about you by writing them down or taking screenshots - this will help you to keep track of what has happened.
  • Report all offensive posts, videos, pictures, or other media that you find online about you - to the website administrator and/or the police if necessary.
  • If someone sets up a fake social networking account in your name, ask them to take it down by contacting the person who runs the site.
  • If you are seriously worried about what is being said or posted online, talk to someone safe like a responsible adult or therapist.

How do people typically react when they become victims of cyberbullying?

When most people (over 70%) come across unpleasant, threatening or abusive messages on the internet, they usually ignore them. However there are some people (about 30%) who do reply, and these people are usually shocked by the negative responses that they receive.

Sometimes cyberbullying can lead to the victim feeling frightened or helpless if it continues for a long time.

Bullies may sometimes threaten their victims online but only very rarely does this turn into physical bullying.

Quite often, bullies will pick on people who are easy targets, e.g. young children or people with low self-esteem.

Cyberbullying can make victims feel alone, scared and uncertain about how to respond.

How parents can help their children if they are being bullied


  • If your child is being bullied in person then the most important thing that you can do is to make sure they know that this isn't their fault and it's not something they should have to deal with alone.
  • Make sure your child knows that you're there to help as well as other trusted friends or relatives who might be able to support your child.
  • If the bullying has been going on for a long time, children may have started thinking of their bully as a friend and it can be hard for them to see what's really going on. If your child doesn't know how to get away from the physical bullying then you'll need to be there to support them through it.
  • Physical bullying can also traumatize people and leave them with lasting scars, so make sure that they understand this isn't their fault and they aren't alone.


  • Educating children about the dangers of the internet before they get online, can really help to keep them safe.
  • Talk to your child about how they should react if they come across unpleasant messages online - make sure that they know it isn't their fault and it's not something they should have to deal with alone.
  • Make sure your child knows that you will always be there to help them if they come across any threats or abuse online.

When it comes to cyberbullying, children may feel alone and uncertain about how to deal with things so make sure that they know that you are there for them and you support them.

So, IS cyberbullying worse than physical bullying?

Parents often get concerned when their children are being bullied online. Allowing your child to use the internet is therefore necessary, but it can also put them at risk.

It's important to teach your children how they should react if they come across unpleasant messages online.

Any type of bullying will make its victims feel both helpless and alone, therefore parents should always be there for their children, supporting them and making sure they know that the bullying isn't their fault.

Although cyberbullying is becoming more common than physical bullying among young people nowadays, it does not make it worse.

Although cyberbullies can sometimes be violent in what they say or do via the internet (they may even threaten their victims), physical bullying is still scarier because it is more personal and can cause actual physical pain.

If your child is being bullied online, the most important thing that you can do is to make sure that they know that this is not their fault, it's not something they should have to deal with alone and you are there for them, no matter what!

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