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What is worse face to face bullying or online bullying?

To be clear, both types of bullying behaviour are wrong.  Face-to-face and online bullying have negative outcomes for the victims of these behaviours, including anxiety, depression, struggling with education, and disengagement from school life.  Some of the reasons online bullying is particularly harmful are cyberbullies can reach their victim at any time, day or night, the potential reach of online bullying and the fact it is carried out anonymously.

A recent study on students’ perceptions of their victimization and what type of bullying they experienced more challenging found their ability or inability to take some form of action determine how they perceived their experiences[1]

For example, one student found face-to-face bullying more hurtful than cyberbullying because online, they could talk to other friends and forget about the person bullying them. In contrast, with face-to-face bullying, they felt excluded from everyone around them[2]

When bullying occurs online, there are actions the person who experiences the bullying behaviour can take, such as blocking the person, reporting the behaviour to the social media platform, and making a report to the e-Safety Commission.  With face-to-face bullying, many students felt there was nothing they could do except put up with it[3].  It was the sense of powerlessness that contributed to the students finding bullying in person more damaging.

The other issue with in-person bullying was the proximity of the person who is bullying to their victim.  Cyberbullying does provide some distance that physical bullying does not provide.

The study demonstrates that students do have a negative emotional response to whether the bullying behaviour is in person or online.  Students feel sad, threatened, helpless, worried and angry[4].

Students are less impacted by bullying behaviour when they have learnt effective coping strategies and have developed resilience.  It is essential in a family, and educational setting students are encouraged to build resilience, positive self-esteem and effective coping strategies to lessen the negative impact of bullying behaviour.

[1] Emma-Kate Corby, Marilyn Campbell, Barbara Spears, Philiip Slee, Des Butler & Sally Kift (2014): Students’ Perceptions of Their Own Victimization: A Youth Vioice Perspective, Jounral of School Violence, DOI: 10.1080/15388220.2014.996719

[2] Ibid, p.14

[3] Ibid p.15

[4] Ibid, p.17