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There are no cyber-bullies. There are only bullies.

(There are no cyber-criminals either, just criminals, but that is perhaps a topic for another day).

There are many problems with so-called ‘cyber-bullying’, but one of the worst is sticking the prefix ‘cyber-‘ on the front and pretending that it is somehow something different to just plain old regular bullying.

Bullying isn’t just getting beaten up, or just about straight-up physical violence. The physical kind is generally in the minority. Bullying is about harassment, badgering, intimidation and domineering.

As a society – to our shame – we tolerate bullying in its many forms, whether those are pranks, hazing, coercion, harassment or intimidation. We blame the victim, we offer ineffective advice like ‘ignore it’ or ‘stand up to it’ or ‘respond in kind’ or ‘laugh it off’. We make it the victim’s fault if it continues. In fact, as a society we do just about everything except attempt to deal effectively with the bullies themselves.

Shame on us.

Shame on us all.

We let it pass. We give the bullies a chance. We chalk it up to a ‘phase’ that the bully is going through, rather than viewing it as a person learning how to deal with others for the rest of their lives.

We let it slide so that it can be handed down to a new generation, who are no longer our problem. We do this because we, as elders and adults, balk at standing against it. Yes, juvenile bullies have us cowed too, let alone the adult bullies that they grow into.

And then we make things worse. When bullying isn’t in person or over the phone, but via texts, or emails or social media or IMs or whatever the heck else, we call it ‘cyber-bullying’ and dismiss it as of being worthy of even less attention and less action and less concern than the bare minimum we can scrape together ordinarily.

What the hell are we thinking?

One third of teachers in the UK (for example) have been bullied, abused and harassed online. Three quarters of that by students, and the remainder by their parents. This is in addition the the intimidation and harassment visited online towards students by both other students and by adults.

While the worst bullying behaviours are prohibited by law in many jurisdictions, and by regulation in many organisations and venues, good luck getting anyone to do anything about it. If your child is being bullied at school, the school will respond by telling you and her what she is doing wrong, and how she must be inviting it by action or by inaction.


If you or your child is being bullied, assaulted or harassed, a school, or the police will generally do not one single thing about the bully until a bone gets broken – or until it gets a million views or so on YouTube.

If it’s happening by post, or by telephone, you’ve got maybe once chance in a million to get anyone with any ability to actually help to actually do so.

If it is happening in any way that you might conceivably stick the prefix ‘cyber-‘ in front of… well, you may as well just forget it. It’s bad enough being bullied, but to attempt to get help is to simply invite mockery and ridicule. If ordinary bullying gets only a token effort, the online kind pretty much gets no effort at all.

And instead of trying to stop bullies, instead we counsel the victims, and set up programmes to educate them – to tell the victims of bullying what they’re doing wrong.

In the schoolyard, or the staff-room; in corporate offices, and out in the public streets and at home, we teach everyone (child or adult) one singular, resounding lesson over and over; that – correctly or incorrectly – bullies are winners.

We all make that true every single day, by our various actions and inactions, because as a society, we treat the bullies better than we ever treat their victims.

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Categories: Culture, Opinion.

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