Throughout my career as a school counselor, I’ve worked with students in a variety of educational settings. This includes alternative and charter schools, traditional brick-and-mortar settings, and online school.
Even though they’re all different, I’ve witnessed similar bullying behavior and trends in each of them.
Here are five ways bullying has changed during the pandemic–and one way it’s stayed the same:
1. There’s less opportunity to be a bully.
A widely held perception is that most students miss social time with their peers because of the pandemic. While this may be true for some, it is not true for all. For students who experienced bullying, time spent at school socializing with others could be more stressful than enjoyable.
2. Students who experienced bullying are feeling a sense of relief.
The pandemic has disrupted our daily lives, routines, and structure. It’s also disrupted some potentially harmful bullying behaviors that were occurring in our schools, such as verbal aggression, relational aggression, and in some cases, even physical aggression.
3. Students are more focused on academics.
Overall, online school and online academic programs provide an opportunity for students to focus more on their coursework and less on other distractions. For students who were bullied in traditional school settings, it may have been difficult to concentrate on academics while also experiencing feelings of anxiety while at school.
4. More educators are noticing how prevalent bullying truly is.
While most educators are well aware that bullying exists, few of us really understand firsthand the short and long-term impact it can have on our students. Many teachers, counselors, and school staff are noticing a change in student behaviors because of the pandemic, and some students are speaking up about the bullying they endured in the past and the effect it had on their education.
5. Kindness is cool!
As a counselor at an online school, I can say that many of the students who choose to attend our school pre-pandemic cite “bullying” as a reason for enrolling. In fact, many of them view the online classroom as a friendly environment and report positive classroom interactions with their peers.
6. Online school can be a welcome reprieve for bullying survivors.
For some students, online school is a safe haven for learning and is just what they need to succeed. This was true even before the pandemic. Now, the pandemic has opened a world of education to students that they may not have discovered otherwise.
Nevertheless, cyberbullying is still a very real concern, and it remains a significant threat to students’ well-being. Social media and other online platforms can be a breeding ground for bullies. The bottom line is—we all need to pay closer attention to students’ online presence and encourage safe and respectful virtual behavior.