Bullying During Covid-19

05 - Nov - 2021

During the Covid-19 pandemic there has been an increase in the use of online and digital platforms, as well as social media. Kids and teenagers not only use digital platforms for their personal use but also for educational purposes, particularly during lockdown and when classes are moved to online teaching. With the increased usage of online platforms and social media, students who are prone to bullying are likely to cyberbully. 

Kids and teenagers who study from home may find additional screen time and boredom of staying at home appealing to start cyberbullying other peers. This can be very detrimental and damaging to the victims’ mental health. According to the Adolescent Psychiatric Association, “stress and mental health conditions may be exacerbated by cyberbullying, particularly among those who have experienced emotional abuse. 

Although cyberbullying has been around for a long time, the concern for cyberbullying now is higher than ever. The pandemic and government restrictions, has lead the kids to be stressed out or bored. As a result, the opportunity to cyberbully is present. 

Additionally, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, certain ethnic groups have been targeted. Parents of Asian or Mixed-Race Asian students have reported instances of their kids being mistreated and bullied due to their ethnicity. Many people have been acting racist and calling the virus “The Chinese Virus” or “The Asian Virus”, and sending abusive or shameful messages to Asian or Mixed-Race Asian students.

Another cause of bullying during the pandemic is the difference in beliefs between vaccinated people and the anti-vaxxers. There have been reports of teenagers being bullied at school for receiving the Covid-19 vaccine. Recently a 13-year-old girl was a victim of her peers and anti-vaccine protestors, leaving her "shaken and upset’’. The students in her class declared that because she had the vaccine, that meant she had now been injected with Covid, saying ‘’if anyone went near her she would pass Covid on to them’’. This resulted in several children moving away from her, and refusing to sit beside her during lessons or at lunchtime. One of the protestors also said "I can show you names and addresses of some teenagers dead this week. Dead from taking the vaccine." 

School students who had COVID-19 also report stigma and bullying. School students have reportedly been bullied after being diagnosed with COVID-19 and have struggled to return to school as a result. Stigma related to being diagnosed with COVID-19 has the potential for school students to be rejected and excluded. 

In the United Kingdom, the percentages of individuals who have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes have nearly doubled from 2016 to 2021. 

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 victims.

COVID-19 continues to impact heavily on children, teenagers and adults including their education, health and social life. Bullying, which harms each of these domains of childhood development, may have substantially increased during the ongoing pandemic, compounding further the disproportionate impact on children and young people.

Bullying in childhood and adolescence is a major public health problem that has affected one in three children across countries of all incomes in the preceding month. The increased risk of poor health, educational, and social outcomes associated with bullying are well recognised in childhood, and are now known to extend into adult life.

Bullying is a specific type of aggression that occurs repeatedly, is harmful and involves an imbalance of power. This behaviour could include verbal, physical and indirect or social bullying. All types of bullying, especially indirect and social bullying, are often hidden.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, young people have experienced increased stress. They may be especially vulnerable to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression during lockdowns. These impacts might lead to some students seeking to exert power and control by bullying other students in relation to being diagnosed with COVID-19.

The parents should watch out closely for any signs of bullying in their children. These can include the emotional and behavioural signs such as changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating patterns, frequent tears or anger, mood swings and aggression and refusing to talk about what is wrong, or physical signs such as unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches and coming home with damaged clothes or belongings. 

The impacts of bullying are relatively clear. Bullying and emotional abuse are a significant concern for young people. It’s a common experience, which can have long-term negative impacts on mental health and overall wellbeing. Bullying can result in feelings of rejection, exclusion, isolation and low self-esteem. Bullying also appears to be linked to serious mental health issues like depression.

Parents and carers should talk with the children about bullying and normalise their feelings and concerns about COVID-19. It is very important to look after your mental health by maintaining physical activity, healthy diet, having enough sleep and seeking help from a professional if necessary.

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