When Cedella Marley published the children’s book Get Up, Stand Up, interpreting Bob Marley’s timeless words as a call to action against bullying, she knew she wanted to contribute to the anti-bullying cause. She found the perfect partner in No Bully, and still donates a portion of proceeds from the book and the kids’ and adults’ shirts to the organization. When the Get Up, Stand Up capsule launched, we spoke with No Bully to learn more about the work they do. (You can find that Q&A here.) For this post, we checked in with Kathy Grey, the VP of Education, to see how bullying is changing in COVID times, and how we can all help.
Q: How has bullying changed this year, because of COVID?
A: Bullying has not receded, but rather has moved from the playground to the cybersphere. When COVID-19 closed all school campuses in the spring of 2020, classrooms shifted from in-person to online distance learning. Without face-to-face contact, the physical and verbal types of bullying that were so prevalent in places such as school hallways, playgrounds, and school buses came to a halt. Cyberbullying, in contrast, still has a presence and a place at the table. The Cyberbullying Research Center’s most recent 2020 report reflects this increase: “In our 2019 study of a nationally-representative sample of approximately 5,000 middle and high schoolers in the U.S., 36.5 percent said they had been cyberbullied during their lifetime, while 17.4 percent said they had been cyberbullied within the previous 30 days.” This is an increase from 33.6 percent of students who reported they had been cyberbullied in 2016.
Other research organizations, such as L1ght (whose mission is to eradicate online toxicity), found startling levels of increase. According to L1ght, there has been a 70% increase in cyberbullying in just a matter of months. They also found a 40% increase in toxicity on online gaming platforms, a 900% increase in hate speech on Twitter directed toward China and the Chinese, and a 200% increase in traffic to hate sites.
2) What do you attribute to the increase in cyberbullying?
What we notice about cyberbullying since COVID-19 is, for the most part, related to what we have read or learned from webinars and partner organizations. Stomp Out Bullying has reported: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increase in kids and teens using digital platforms. And it’s not just their personal use, they’re using digital platforms for educational purposes. With the increased usage of smartphones and social media, students who are prone to bullying are likely to cyberbully. 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.”
3) Are you seeing this change firsthand?
We are only just now starting up with our school partnerships in this school year. But anecdotally, it has been shared that while students are in the virtual learning space, they still find ways to bully and isolate via chat and breakout rooms and even on alternative personal devices. Cyberbullying facts, prevention and support are all included in our virtual training sessions. No Bully’s four-level program guides schools in their quest to create a school campus where all students belong and are not pushed to the shadows with bullying. The No Bully System includes guidance to write their anti-bullying policy and protocol and specific training for what is at the heart of No Bully—the Solution Teams.
4) Now that some schools have opened up, is playground bullying on the rise?
Some schools around the country have opened in a hybrid model—a combination of in-person and online distance learning. Most of these schools are requiring masks and social distance. These two requirements will diminish the prevalence of bullying, but not completely abate the potential of bullying. Even with the mask and distance physical limitations, children will still get into conflicts with one another, which can lead to bullying.
5) What resources do you recommend to parents who have a kid who is getting cyberbullied?
Here are a few helpful sites:
6) Do you offer your own virtual programming?
On our event page, readers will find a myriad of exciting free webinars and events to participate and learn from.