Cyberbullying Vs. Traditional Bullying

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 8.26.03 AMA post on excellent parent Q&A site this week asks a simple question, “Can we actually do anything to stop cyberbullying?”

The water runs pretty deep here I think.

Even in our office, we debate whether buying is worse now than when we were kids, and whether we can do anything to combat it. In the end, the former is an interesting yet irrelevant argument, since bullying in undeniably negative, and therefore we should attempt to do something to prevent it despite the fact that many of us were bullied as kids. The latter is the question at hand. Recent research indicates that in-school cyberbullying education may lead to an increase in its occurrence. Is this a problem without a solution?

Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between offline, old school bullying and cyberbullying:


  • Unwanted
  • Intended to insult or threaten
  • Can be carried out by an individual or a group

Cyberbullying is different because it:

  • Can be anonymous
  • Can happen 24/7
  • Has the potential for a larger audience
  • Can be permanent

I think we can agree that the differences between traditional and cyberbullying lead a rational person to think that cyberbullying can have more serious implications than traditional bullying. Combine that with the fact that most schools now have a zero tolerance policy on violence, removing one remedy from the victim’s repertoire, and you have a situation that really deserves a concerted preventive effort.

What did the experts at have to say?

I think the action we must take is to mitigate the harm that cyberbullying can cause, and provide the support and education to ensure children feel comfortable and confident in reporting bullying.


There is not much we can do to stop cyber bullying. However we can provide our children with coping mechanisms and teach them responsible online behaviour.

Both above respondents, the only two as of this writing, focus on reporting or coping rather that preventing. Schools without a doubt are focused on reporting and follow up, which are in many cases mandated by law, but what if the recent research referenced above is correct and schools cannot implement effective preventive programs? We have argued on many cases that parents are the ones that need to focus on prevention. We challenge parents to set their sights on the following three areas that can help foster more positive behavior, and fewer instances of cyberbullying:

Communication – Talk to your kids early and often about a couple of key ideas:

  • Be nice to people (duh)
  • Online communication is exactly the same as and possibly more hurtful than saying something face to face
  • You may be leaving a permanent record. Do you really want that?

Awareness – As a parent, if you don’t have some general knowledge of how your kids or teens are interacting online, you are unable to guide positive behavior. Get involved!

Pro-positive behavior – If you notice that your daughter is active on Instagram or Twitter, encourage her to say something positive to or about someone. Every little bit helps and it might catch on.

We’ll admit that there are some inherently mean kids out there, but there are also some, as comedian Louis CK says, are mean “because they’re trying it out”. For the latter group of kids, the fear of a parent finding out may be enough to make them think twice. Involved, aware parents can help.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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