Remote learning may protect children from in-person bullying, but it will not keep them safe from cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying, for those who are lucky enough not to have experienced it, can be just as devastating as face-to-face bullying. You may not be pushed, punched, kicked, or slapped. But you can be mocked, threatened, humiliated, or lied about. And the consequences of the trauma can remain with children indefinitely.
Cyber-Bulling Happens Everywhere in the Digital World
Since cyber-bullying can happen on social networks, in chatrooms, in gaming communities, and via text and email, the perpetrators have unfettered access to their targets. It can even happen by way of the apps kids are using for distance learning. Cyber-bullying doesn’t stop when the school bell rings or kids make it to their after-school destinations. It goes on and on without offering kids a reprieve. In 2019, the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System of the Centers for Disease Control estimated that 15.7% of high school students had been bullied electronically within the last year.
That was bad enough. But it gets even worse.
A L1ght study found that online hate speech, cyber-bullying, and online toxicity among children has increased by 70 percent since the pandemic began and students began attending classes remotely. Seventy percent!
Cyber-Bullying Rates Soar During the Pandemic
That startling increase may be because kids are spending more time online, and the stress and isolation of the pandemic have caused some of them to become more aggressive. Their extra-curricular activities may have been curtailed or cancelled, and they may be tired of staring at the same four walls. Their families may be facing economic hardship. Their parents may be climbing the walls, too. In their frustration, fear, and anger…these bullies may attack others. It’s easy enough. They don’t have to leave home to do it, and their parents don’t necessarily even have to know about it.
Whatever the reason, kids don’t need it now. On top of everything else the pandemic is forcing them to deal with, cyber-bullying is just too much to handle.
Dr. David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, has found that cyber-bullying can have the same long-term consequences as in-person bullying. It’s up to parents, he believes, to monitor their children’s online activities and protect them from digital abuse. And it also falls to parents to make sure their children aren’t harassing and ostracizing others online.
Parents can add worrying about cyber-bullying and shouldering the responsibility for noticing, and short-circuiting, it when it reaches their children’s lives to a very long list of new, barely manageable tasks: working while trying to not catch COVID; shopping as safely as possible; feeding and clothing themselves and their family members on what may be a vastly reduced income; and trying to maintain some semblance of normality when life seems to have been upended for the foreseeable future.
Being a parent these days is tough. Being a child who may be targeted by bullies they can’t even see is even tougher.