Cyberbullying is on the rise during COVID-19 pandemic 

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By Miguel Velázquez, MWN

Remote work and online education, which became common due to the quarantine, have led to an increase in cyberbullying cases around the globe.

“The circumstances are in place that could lead to more cyberbullying as more students are online for more hours than pre-COVID-19 (as much as three times more, according to some experts) and parents may be exhausted in their new reality and unable to invest the time to monitor access,” Tory Cox, clinical associate professor at the University of Southern California, explained to Metro. 

According to the expert, parent involvement is the key component.

He added: “Parents should talk openly with their children about their online and social media relationships, which are being negotiated fully online without the additional in-person bullying that often accompanies cyberbullying. It is a time to be extremely vigilant with children and youth’s online access and social media usage.”

A study published this year in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry confirms that cyberbullying amplified symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in young people.

“Even against a backdrop of emotional challenges in the kids we studied, we noted cyberbullying had an adverse impact. It’s real and should be assessed,” Philip D. Harvey, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who co-authored the paper, stated.

“Children and youth’s social world went almost completely online without other forced in-person engagements like school or extra-curricular activities, meaning more intentional selection of in-person and social media contacts occurred. Use of existing social media apps, including an extremely popular TikTok, proliferated during COVID-19,” Cox concluded.

Metro sat down with Dorothy L. Espelage, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, to learn more:

Did cyberbullying cases increase during the COVID-19 pandemic?

There is a reason to believe that there is likely more cyberbullying during the COVID-19 pandemic based on what we know about the science underlying cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is often perpetrated by youth who use screens largely unsupervised, with no parental monitoring, and aggressive youth with limited emotion regulation skills. Given the COVID-19 pandemic has put tremendous stress on families, there is increased conflict, therefore, we are likely to see more cyberbullying.

Tell us more about the current situation.

We have heard from some teachers that kids are posting rude comments about other students. Also, kids are likely to be on social media and gaming more than usual. Gaming is a place where youth experience bullying, harassment, etc on a regular basis, especially if they are young and playing with adults. 

How can people prevent this form of harassment?

Parents should limit screen time as much as possible, know who they are communicating with on games and on social media, talk to kids about what they might be posting on social media, and whether they are ready for others to comment on these posts. Talk about how youth should report to social media or parents what they are experiencing.

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