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Cyberbullying: Bullying vs. Name Calling

October 18, 2016 | Written by Dan Margolis

Understanding the difference between bullying and name calling involves learning more about each and understanding their basic definitions. Ohio Legal Services explains that the state law specifically defines bullying as harassing or intimidating another person. Additionally, there is cyberbullying, which involves using electronic devices to perform these same behaviors.

According to, while name calling can be bullying, it also can be flirty, fun and endearing. It depends on the context. If someone’s friend calls him or her “goofy” in a joking manner, then that may not be bullying. However, if that person’s friend used the term “stupid” as a put-down in a derogatory way, then that may be considered bullying. The line crossed here is one of intent. When the intent is to harm or to produce negative feelings in the other person, name calling becomes bullying because it has become harassing or intimidating.

It is fairly accurate to say that name calling often comes from an emotional place. For example, when spouses call each other “honey,” they are probably doing so out of love and affection, whereas a school mate taunting another child by calling him “geek” might be doing so out of jealously because the other child gets good grades. It is very common with children to use negative names because they are unable to appropriately express a strong emotion and resort to hurtful words, instead.

One way adults can prevent children from practicing negative name calling is to be role models and avoid the behavior themselves. In addition, parents should begin teaching children at a young age how better to handle their emotions and not to use words to harm others.

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