Is Cyber Bullying More Harmful Than Traditional Bullying?

Cyber bullying has become more common with advances in technology. Messages can be posted on social networking websites, and pictures can be downloaded, altered, and made available to the world in seconds. Although there has been abundant research into the consequences of cyber bullying and traditional bullying, little has been done to determine which type may cause more psychological damage. It is well established that bullying itself—the act of terrorizing, intimidating, and ridiculing another through verbal or physical acts—can have numerous deleterious effects.

Those who endure bullying are at increased risk for internalizing problems such as anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation. Understanding how each type of bullying impacts young people is of critical importance in order to target those most vulnerable and help them deal with the ramifications. To get a better idea of the effects of cyber bullying in comparison to traditional bullying, Sheri Bauman of the University of Arizona’s College of Education recently conducted a study asking college students to rate their levels of distress based on hypothetical cyber and traditional bullying scenarios. The scenarios were similar in nature and differed only in delivery.

Bauman discovered that three main bullying themes emerged, including generalized bullying, name calling, and sexual victimization through explicit sexual images. Although the female participants reported higher levels of distress for all three types of bullying, the method of delivery did not impact emotional response. Specifically, although their responses varied by bullying scenario, all participants reported similar distress levels whether the bullying event was traditional in nature or cyber bullying.

However, Bauman found that one type of bullying was the most distressing. “We … found that bullying with sexual material, whether conventionally or by technological methods, is the most upsetting kind of incident to targets,” she said. This was especially true for female participants. Those with a history of victimization had higher distress than those without. In sum, Bauman believes that these findings demonstrate that it may not be the delivery method of bullying behavior that is most detrimental to young people, but rather the content of the message conveyed.

Bauman, S., Newman, M. L. (2012). Testing assumptions about cyber bullying: Perceived distress associated with acts of conventional and cyber bullying. Psychology of Violence. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029867

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  • clark

    October 9th, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    cyber bullying has to be the more harmful one!although bullying can cause equal stress and anxiety in the victim in both forms,cyber and conventional,cyber bullying does not even bring the victim in direct contact of the bully and the victim could be left feeling they have been bullied by someone far away without them having any control over it.add to that the support that people around you could provide in the real world and the ease with which bullying can occur in the cyber space,it does seem like cyber bullying is the more harmful of the two.

  • derrick

    February 9th, 2017 at 6:25 AM


  • Aayush T.

    March 20th, 2019 at 8:41 PM

    cyberbullying hurts more because the bully thinks that if the victim doesn’t see the bully, they won’t get in trouble.

  • anonymous

    October 23rd, 2019 at 9:38 AM

    cyberbullying is not nearly as bad as traditional. when you take into account how traditional actually hurts people and cyber is just being mean online. and dont get me started on blocking ,which is the obvious thing to do in this situation ! obviously its painfully overexaggerated and that kinda stuff really ticks me off !

  • kayleigh

    October 10th, 2012 at 4:05 AM

    I feel pretty strongly that words are often more harmful than the physical blows of traditional bullying. These are the things that stay with you long after the blow has been struck, unlike a real hit, which comes and goes and then goes away. The harm that can be inflicted upon children online is that which can spread far beyond the school walls, and once it has begun it is fairly hard to stop it from spreading.

  • Mike Urry

    October 10th, 2012 at 1:14 PM

    Cyberbullying is worse in the sense that it never stops. The victim can’t leave it behind at the end of the school day. As well, because teens’ on-line activities are such an central part of their lives, it becomes a “virtual schoolyard” where the crowd watching the abuse potentially consists of thousands. Everyone the victim knows and an unknown number of total strangers all get to watch and respond, and the victims are very much aware of that. The pressure and resulting stress is enormous and unrelenting. Unrelenting stress is one of the most effective ways known to mentally break a person. We must end the madness before we lose any more of this generation to barbaric cruelty.

  • Jason F

    October 10th, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    One thing that I have noticed about cyber bullying is that kids feel more at liberty to say meaner things that they would ever consider saying face to face. It is this openness anout cyber bullying that I think makes it so much worse than those traditional forms of bullying that we may think of when we think of the term. There is not one form of bullying that is more painful than others, that much I can assure you, because no matter how a child is being picked on and teased it is wrong and makes a strong impact. However when it comes to the forms of bullying that we see today versus what we have seen in the past I think that today it is far more mean spirited and designed to really hurt more than it did even 10 years ago.

  • Mararet

    October 10th, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    No matter how it is delivered it is wrong

  • slater

    October 11th, 2012 at 4:07 AM

    Cyber bullying makes it easier for the bullying cowards to say anything that they want without the fear of having to do this face to face. The element of impersonality that this environment has created has made it even easier for those who choose to bully to spread their hate and create an environemnt of anxiety and even fear in many cases in the lives of their victims.

    But how do we crack down and this and end this growth of bullying? It all starts in the home. Kids emulate what they see, and if this is what they see at home then this is what they are going to perpetrate against others. They rarely think about how this could be making someone else feel, only how they feel when they have this kind of power and control over another person.

  • Jane barnett

    October 11th, 2012 at 4:43 AM

    The one thing that I have never understood about all of this is how the parents of the children who are the bullies can stand back and watch their child inflict this kind of harm on another and still do nothing. They have to know how much this may be hurting another, but they just will not step in and try to stop it. How did they become like this?

  • sally

    October 11th, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    I’ve been at the receiving end of both forms of bullying and I certainly think real world bullying is more of a problem.I say this because it often happens to little children and that can have a greater effect on their minds than adults. Cyber bullying can happen to teens and adults but they are better off compared to little kids and can and will seek help and channels that can help them.

  • Brendan

    October 11th, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    I work some with bullying and cyberbullying victims and cyberbullying is worse. In the old days, when you were bullied at school at least there is refuge at home. With the internet is 24/7 and the problem is keeping your kids off the internet doesn’t solve the problem. So many people are creating fake facebook pages dedicated to torturing children and that affects the child everywhere and his or her reputation. It can also occur during text messaging. There are also other brutal sites such as Formspring and Topix that I commonly have people devastated by.

  • Grant Y

    October 12th, 2012 at 4:26 AM

    I agree with Brendan, I think that cyberbullying is worse because it is not as visible and regular bullying is. Who knows what persona these kids take on when they are online and texting? They could become someone totally different than what you know, and they could be inflicting untold damage on their victims without many of us ever seeing that.

  • Joanna Jullien

    October 15th, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    I shudder to think of what my 8th grade tormentor would have done with a smart phone. Cyber-powered communications are an upgrade to abuse power. That is why kids need to be equipped with a moral compass that serves the individual and the greater good.

  • Suzanne

    February 9th, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    This is the worst case of cyber bullying I have ever seen. The bullies even spoofed calls pretending to be FBI agents. When the victim finally figured out the calls were false and responded in like kind, she was arrested for impersonating an FBI agent and did prison time. NOTHING happened to the bloggers and now with the federal government behind them their bullying has risen to new levels.

  • Samantha E. Smith

    November 26th, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Physical is worst

  • Samantha E. Smith

    November 26th, 2013 at 11:30 AM


  • ria

    May 17th, 2014 at 1:11 PM

    cyber is way worse!!!!!

  • Bob

    May 20th, 2015 at 9:23 AM

    Cyber bullying is not worse than traditional bullying because you get bullied physically in traditional bullying and cyber bullying they just talk crap to you because they hate their life and they want to make your live just like theirs.

  • Maxx

    July 1st, 2015 at 3:51 PM

    Both of these are worse than each other and thnx for who ever wrote all off this done its gonna help me with the speech im doing so thnx again

  • Claire

    March 8th, 2016 at 1:02 AM

    really useful website thanks :-)

  • bob

    October 6th, 2016 at 9:57 AM

    they r equally as bad

  • Stuart

    November 29th, 2016 at 9:54 AM

    I think that cyber is worse and has way more ways of getting rid of it than physical

  • Stuart

    November 29th, 2016 at 9:56 AM

    So yeah I think both are equally bad but some more than others

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