-: Sep 08, 2020 / John Garrigan

Cyber bullying during covid-19

As most parents know, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in kids and teens using digital platforms – both for personal reasons and educational purposes. This special edition of SecurAlert discusses this problem and what parents can do to help prevent and respond to cyber-threats.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many teens and children to feel alone and out of control. Being taken from their consistent daily routines and normal school environments have forced a “new normal” that includes increased time and activity online. Being isolated from their friends, educators, peers and mentors can easily affect their confidence and drive. These factors can create a situation where kids can turn to or become the victim of cyberbullying.

According to Dr. Sameer Hinduja, the co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center at Florida Atlantic University, there’s “now an almost limitless number of potential targets and aggressors”, meaning that it is critical for parents and educators to educate themselves on ways to intervene.

Cyberbullying is when a child or teen (and even an adult) is repeatedly and intentionally harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, threatened or tormented on-line

During the COVID-19 pandemic children may feel alone and out of control being taken from their consistent daily routines

With the increased usage of smart phones, tablets, laptops and social media, students who are prone to in-person bullying are likely to be the victim of cyberbullying. Unlike bullying at “live” school, cyber-bullying can take place 24 hours a day and hurtful messages and images can be distribute almost immediately to a wide audience.

Cell phones, i-pads, computers, chat rooms, social media sites, instant messaging, texting, website postings and blogs are all devices where Cyber-bulling can take place. Typically, this done through “mean” comments, on- line rumors, and even sexual remarks. Cyberbullying is usually connected with appearances, intelligence, race/ ethnicity and sexual orientation (70% of LGBT students say they have been bullied because of their actual or perceived sexuality).

While cyberbullying is a great concern, kids who can’t sleep, or who have completed their home studying may find additional screen time attractive and if the opportunity presents itself, cyberbullying (and surfing to inappropriate websites) can become one of their activities.

The misuse of the internet by kids is exacerbated by the fact that so many parents are exhausted (by working at home, home schooling and other activities) and not paying attention to what their kids are doing online during non-school hours.

Although cyberbullying has been around for a long time, we’re living in unprecedented times and when kids are stressed out and bored the opportunity to cyberbully is present. Asian American children have been particularly targeted since the virus began in China and spread throughout the globe and, as a result, many other kids and even adults have targeted this community with racist cruelty. Digital Harassment is the perfect way for the online aggressors to remain anonymous. Being anonymous, there is no fear of punishment because they don’t have to come face to face with their victim(s.)

Cyberbullying Statistics

  • 95% of teens are connected to the internet; 85% are social media users (Source: Pew Research Center)
  • 36.5% of people feel that they have been cyberbullied in their lifetime; 17.4% have reported that it has happened in just 30 days (Source: Cyberbullying.org)
  • 87% of young people have seen cyberbullying occurring on-line (Source: McAfee.com)
  • 61% of teens reported that their appearance was the reason for the bullying (Source: Cyberbullying.org)
  • 90% of kids who see cyberbullying ignore it (Source: Pewinternetorg)

Bullying Warning Signs

Parents should be on alert for behavior changes and other signs that a child is being bullied.

Signs may include:

Noticeable increases or decreases in device use, including texting (#1 red flag according to the National

Crime Prevention Center)

A child or teen exhibits emotional responses (such as laughter, anger, upset) to what is happening on
  their device
Hiding their screen or device when others are near or avoids discussion about what they are doing on
  their device
A decline in grades
Unexplainable injuries (if they are going to live classroom sessions)
Alcohol and/or drug use
A change in eating habits (including eating disorders) and sleep patterns
Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
Reporting to you that they hate school and/or don’t have any friends
Increased physical complaints (headaches, stomach upset, etc.)
School avoidance
  • Does not want to participate in on-line learning (classes or any homework)
  • When kids are in the classroom, 5.4 million students want to stay home every day or fear of being bullied.

n Kids and teens experience self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, self-harm or talking about suicide.

In the case of a cyber-bully attack, instruct your child to save the email, text or posting; if it is in any way sexual or threatening in nature, you should report it to the police, contact the social media site and immediately block the person who is cyberbullying your child.

What Parents Can Do


Communicate with your kids and teens.

Let them know that it’s okay to come to you if they are being cyberbullied.

  • Kids should be taught that if they wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, they shouldn’t say it to them online, through texting, or posting in any other way.
  • Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they are being digitally harassed, cyberbullied, cyberstalked or if they’ve been approached by a predator. Tell them you won’t be angry about anything. You just want to help them and, that together, you and they can find a solution.
  • During this unprecedented time where kids are spending their days online at home, parents need to keep close tabs on all online interactions and encourage kids to send you screenshots or screen recordings of any rule violations they see to help you investigate and facilitate takedowns of problematic or abusive content.
  • Be sure to keep your home computer(s) out in the open, such as a family room or kitchen.
  • Encourage your child to alert you if they are aware of others who may be the victims of similar behavior.
  • Explain that cyberbullying is harmful and unacceptable. Discuss appropriate online behavior and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior.
  • Although it’s important to install parental control filtering software, it’s just as important for you to monitor your child’s computer. You want to respect your children’s privacy yet your child’s safety may override these privacy concerns. Tell your child that you are not spying on them, but you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern.
  • If the cyberbullying is happening through your child’s distance learning classroom or with peers, inform your child’s school.
  • Consider role-playing with the child – present a hypothetical bully situation and see how your child would respond; guide the child on the best way of handling so they are prepared
  • Encourage physical activity when/where possible.
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