Cyberbullying: How is it different from face‑to‑face bullying?

Bullying is an ever-present global problem: it happens in schools, offices and even in homes. The issue has been tackled by law enforcement, school officials, governments, and various non-profit organizations alike. With the advent of digital technology, the problem has extended to the online realm, and cyberbullying has become so pervasive that this term even wormed its way into the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.

Let’s shed some light on the differences between in-person and online abuse and harassment.

In face-to-face bullying, as the name suggests, you are very aware of who your bully is – or bullies are. Even if they slander you behind your back, they usually make a show of it. On the other hand, cyberbullies have an extra advantage: the internet can provide them with the extra layer of anonymity. The bullies hide behind pseudonyms and obviously unreal profile pictures on public message boards or social media, keeping themselves out of
(h)arm’s reach. Since the victims don’t know who their bullies are, it diminishes the chance that the antagonizers will be caught and minimizes their fear of being punished.

A public audience
According to a recent Pew Research study, 59% of US teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying. Unfortunately, the appeal of cyberbullying, besides its anonymity, is ease of access. Bullying someone face-to-face involves the assailant, the victim, and perhaps some bystanders. But, on the internet, bullying can spread like wildfire and it can take many forms, from threatening direct messages to public rumors, and crude photoshop images of the victim. Even worse: more than one bully can join in, setting up a snowball effect on the victim.

We Live Security. “Cyberbullying: How is it different from face‑to‑face bullying?” Owaida, Amer, 28 February 2020. <>.