Remote Schooling Meant Less Bullying. What Now?

Remote Schooling Meant Less Bullying. What Now?

Masked girl sitting at a classroom desk ready to do an assignment.

It’s no secret that a lot of kids didn’t love fully remote schooling. They missed their friends, school-based activities like sports and prom, and the independence of having a space in the world separate from their families. They had zoom fatigue and they grew hungry for personal interactions.

But for some kids? Fully remote schooling was a welcome escape from being bullied at school, on the bus, or on their walk home. And while it’s fairly obvious that in-person bullying wouldn’t be happening as much when kids don’t see each other face-to-face, a recent study out of Boston University indicated that even cyberbullying decreased significantly in areas that adopted fully remote education.

Being back in the classroom this fall might be extra difficult for students who have felt shielded from nasty comments, discrimination, or even physical abuse this past school year. And since most kids aren’t exactly eager to admit to being bullied, you might not even know if this is the case with your own child. So, how can you help?

Look for signs of bullying
Your child won’t necessarily say “I’m being bullied,” but there are other, less direct signs that families can and should watch out for. Sometimes a sudden change in personality or mood, seemingly random outbursts, or avoidance of certain activities or groups a kid used to love are a cry for help.

Instill confidence
It’s always a good idea to remind kids how to handle difficult situations—and being bullied absolutely counts. Make sure they know that if someone is spreading rumors about or otherwise bullying them, approaching the person responsible calmly and directly can often start a conversation that can lead to reconciliation. Of course, if there’s any threat of violence, they should stay within view of other people and seek help from an adult.

Don’t tolerate teasing or bullying at home
You might think it’s normal sibling stuff if one of your kids picks on another, or turn the other way when your brother-in-law jokes about your child’s weight—but these seemingly small events can have similar effects to in-school bullying, and they can make it less likely that your child will feel safe enough to tell you about any problems they’re experiencing on the playground.

Make time to listen
Put away your phone, step away from the computer, and take the time to ask about what’s going on at school. What are the other kids like? Who do they eat lunch with? Who do they want to be friends with and why? Who bothers them and why? Ask if your kid wants advice or just wants to vent, and really listen to what they have to say—without interruption or distractions. Your kids need to know you’re on their team. Routinely making space for these check-ins will help you stay clued into the classroom scene and help your family stay connected.