Why is online bullying different to traditional bullying?

Why is online bullying different to traditional bullying?

Posted on May 06, 2016




Why is online bullying different to traditional bullying?


Online bullying is like traditional bullying in that it involves the torment, threatening, harassment, or humiliation of another person. However, cyberbullying is conducted online or using technology, and there are some key differences.

Cyberbullying covers a range of abusive behaviours:

  • abusive or threatening texts, emails or IMs
  • stealing someone else's identity online to post abusive messages
  • forwarding abusive content to others
  • posting abusive messages on social networking sites
  • making prank calls or sending prank messages
  • setting up hate sites about a person
  • spreading rumours
  • posting humiliating videos or photos that depict bullying or violence online (


Why is it different? “RUIN”

The key differences between online bullying and offline bullying can be remembered with the simple acronym “RUIN”. Cyberbullying is Relentless, Unsupervised, Instant, and Nameless.



Because cyberbullying happens online it means that it’s potentially 24/7 as opposed to bullying at school which only occurs during school hours.



Many online spaces, unlike schools, are unsupervised and unmoderated meaning that bullying inevitably develops.



Due to the instant nature of cyberbullying, victims of bullying can often become the perpetrators. This is not uncommon and studies show that 60% of those who bully have themselves been bullied.



Cyberbullying allows bullies to remain anonymous which makes it more difficult to report the bullying and it means the nature of the bullying can be much more severe. Children and young people feel much more confident to say things online that they would never say offline.


How can cyberbullying be tackled?

Approaches that are effective in tackling traditional bullying are not necessarily appropriate in tackling online bullying.

Many children may feel uncomfortable confiding in an adult because they may be told just to ignore it or to close their account which they may not want to do.

Because of this, an adult will not necessarily be in a position to intervene or help out. The focus needs to be on educating children and young people in how to respond.


If a young person is a victim of cyberbullying:


Offer the young person emotional support.

Listen to their story and how they are feeling. Reassure them that they were right to tell you and that you will do what you can to help.


Talk openly and honestly about what has happened.

Try to get details but do not push; let the young person tell their story at their own pace.


Ask the young person not to retaliate.

Bullies want a reaction and by not retaliating, the young person is taking the wind out of the bully’s sails.


Encourage the young person to keep the evidence.

This can be done by printing off conversations that they have had, or screenshotting the bully’s messages and other content.


Ask the young person to block the bullies.

Different sites and apps will have different means of doing this, but instructions can be found easily with a simple Google search.


Do not punish the child.

If you are a parent, do not deny access to technology. If you work with the young person, don not scold them for using certain technology. Fear of such repercussions can be a huge barrier to reporting cyberbullying.



E-safety is more than just a safeguarding issue, it is a vital life skill. If you work with children in any capacity, it is vital that you promote safe online practice.

Our e-safety course is included as part of the subscription. Just one price for access to all flick courses. Buy an annual subscription or monthly on pay-as-you-go.

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