Less bullying and cyberbullying during remote learning (VIDEO)

When schools switched to remote learning in the spring of 2020, Andrew Bacher-Hicks and his team found that Google searches for bullying dropped.

Ten-year-old Ja’Vae Williams-Hunt was bullied in first and second grade, making her one of five students nationwide to report being bullied before the pandemic.

“So in first grade, the little girl – when I was in line, once she started kicking the back of my shoe and then pushing me, I asked her to stop and she didn’t. And then she did it again. And then she just started insulting me,” Williams-Hunt said.

A new study from Boston University, however, finds that during the pandemic, in-person bullying and cyberbullying have declined as more schools embrace remote learning. And what we have learned can be useful in the future.

When schools moved to remote learning in the spring of 2020, Andrew Bacher-Hicks, assistant professor of education at Boston University, and his team found that Google searches for bullying and cyberbullying plummeted. 30 to 40%. Here’s why it matters: Previous research has shown a link between online searches and actual cases of bullying reported by schools.

“Some of the strategies schools were using to mitigate the spread of COVID may have also prevented bullying from happening in schools,” Bacher-Hicks said. “Historically, there have been higher levels of internet research[es] for harassment, [which] are strongly predictive of higher levels of survey responses, indicating that students were more bullied online and at school.”

When students began to return in the 2020-2021 school year, researchers used CDC data to determine that areas where schools were fully remote had a 42% drop in searches related to bullying. . Meanwhile, regions where children were allowed to return to campus also saw a decline, but less at around 19%.

“I think a potential area to explore might be to think critically about some of the structures that have been put in place as COVID spread to potentially reduce bullying as well,” Bacher-Hicks continued.

He suspects one of the reasons bullying decreased, even when schools returned in person, is that there were more adults around as they monitored virus precautions like distancing and wearing a mask.

“So as the school begins to return to normal in-person instruction, I think it’s reasonable to be concerned that bullying levels could return to pre-pandemic levels,” Bacher-Hicks said.

For 12-year-old Phoenix Hurst, who suffers from alopecia, bullies started fights, including ripping off her wig at school. This abuse has been doubled with online messages.

“It upset me to be bullied for something I have,” she said. “And the fact that other women wear wigs and nobody talks about it.”

Bullying and cyberbullying are equally harmful. Councilor Alise Bartley invites parents to ask themselves: “What am I doing with my children to get in touch with them? To show them that they matter?”

The pandemic has interrupted education, but maybe on the bright side, we may have learned more about bullying and how to reduce it.