Despite what you might have thought, when many schools closed for remote learning during the Pandemic, parents, teachers, and students alike were relieved to find that cyberbullying actually decreased by a lot.
A new study from Boston University has found that cyberbullying fell by between 30 and 40 percent when schools changed to remote learning in the spring of 2020. This is a big surprise given the sudden increase in screen time that occurred, but research shows a closer link between bullying in-person and bullying online than once thought.
Researchers used data from Google Trends and looked for searches about “bullying” before and after the start of the Pandemic. Then they compared what they found to bullying survey data. Not only did they learn that bullying had gone down between 30 and 40 percent, according to surveys, but they also found a correlation between Google searches for bullying and actual instances of bullying.
Why does cyberbullying decrease with more screen time?
Andrew Bacher-Hicks, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, said in an interview with Futurity that having a lack of scheduled “unstructured time,” such as lunch or free periods when students might interact more in-person, may be a key reason for the decline. Some schools also may have seen a decrease in bullying when they opened for in-person learning because of measures they put in place to slow the spread of COVID.
A bullying-free world for kids?
While children might not always be happy to be at home for school, this drop in cyberbullying has certainly made things better in the short-term and the long-term. A decrease in bullying certainly makes school and learning easier, and it could lead to better mental health and self-esteem outcomes for some students in later life, research finds, with bullying potentially causing psychological distress in its victims in later life.