- Research from the Annenberg Institute at Brown University indicates school bullying and cyberbullying dropped around 30-40% after schools transitioned to remote learning in spring 2020 and during the 2020-21 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Bullying partially rose to pre-pandemic levels as schools reopened, and data collected by the researchers suggests in-person interaction drives both face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying. The data also indicates that while the pandemic increased loneliness, it reduced stress and suicidal ideation, with the forced isolation potentially having been beneficial for those who are victims of bullying.
- Bullying is a significant problem, with one in five students reporting it each year. Both bullies and those being bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
As students return to in-person learning this fall, both in-person bullying and cyberbullying may re-emerge alongside face-to-face interactions.
Prior to the pandemic, the rate of cyberbullying was on a steady incline, with the number of reported incidents rising from 11.5% to 15.3% between 2015 and 2017, according to U.S. Department of Education data.
When students switched to virtual learning early in the pandemic, there was a concern that cyberbullying would increase. In fact, a report published in April 2020 found abusive and toxic online content and hate speech between youth increased 70% in the early months of lockdowns and remote learning.
One way to reduce cyberbullying in a remote environment is to allow students to keep their cameras off during class and to monitor chats to ensure no one is being harassed. Virtual teacher-student check-ins can alert educators to bullying problems early in the process, possibly nipping it in the bud. Teachers can also encourage students to make positive online connections. More than half of middle-schoolers report they have received positive emotional support through online friends.
Equipping students with social-emotional and digital citizenship skills may also discourage bullying as school gets back to normal. Initiatives focused on these areas are a critical component for schools looking to build inclusive and emotionally safe cultures in the return to physical classrooms.