The difference between these two equally serious behaviors is a matter of degree. Bullying involves the articulation of a physical, verbal or Internet threat by one person (or group of people) against another. As soon as that threat crosses into the sphere of actual physical violence, unwanted sexual contact, vandalism and so on, making the victim often fearful of attending school or the workplace, it becomes a matter of harassment.
A recent survey determined that the most common form of online bullying among students involves text messages. Nine percent of respondents said they had been the subject of a mean message of this kind, as compared to 12% reporting being bullied in person and eight percent being bullied online via Facebook, Myspace and so on.
In 2004, 5.4 percent of high school students reported staying home at least one day a month from school, because they feared for their safety at school because of bullying or harassment. At that time, 30% of teens were estimated to be victims of bullying. In 2011, that media has gone down overall to about 20% according to some studies, suggesting that increase teacher, parent and media awareness has helped push down the overall average.
On the other hand, a 2011 study of teens in England found the rate to be alarmingly higher. A full third of teenagers are now being bullied online in some form, documented by the largest ever such study in the United Kingdom.
Another telling detail of the UK study, common to most if not all such surveys, is that more than a quarter of the 38% who reported being the victim of online bullying chose not to report it. Close to half of the 1,512 respondents also said they felt that current efforts to reign in cyber bullying were inadequate. Part of the problem is that it is easy for teens to circumvent so-called control mechanisms. Even the head of Facebook in England was forced to admit that her 12-year-old son had an account on the service, which technically is not allowed to be used by anyone under the age of 13.