Dealing With Cyberbullying in the Era of Remote Learning by Amanda Winstead

Dealing With Cyberbullying in the Era of Remote Learning by Amanda Winstead offers sound advice for parents, educators, and students on this timely topic. The key is communication and making time for it. Since cyberbullies leave a digital trail, it’s vital that students feel safe when it comes to sharing this type of abuse with adults they trust.


  • Education is often in a state of evolution. Standards change, learning theories develop, and certainly, budgets make their difference. One of the ways that teachers, students, and parents have seen developments in the last decade or so, is the inclusion of digital tools as a day-to-day part of school operations. Everything from artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithm-driven assessments to social media continue to be adopted in learning environments.
  • This technological acceptance has also been instrumental in keeping classes open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote learning has kept students and teachers connected. Not to mention that these distant learning tools make education more accessible for both K-12 kids and other young adults. However, it can’t be denied that bullying is still a concern. Though the physical boundaries of the classroom have been removed, cyberbullies have found ways to continue inflicting abuse in various toxic forms.
  • Let’s take a look at how parents and teachers can best deal with cyberbullying, especially when it comes to keeping environments around children safe and secure.

Maintain Awareness

  • When schooling is being offered at home, there aren’t the same ground rules that prevent device use during lessons, and as such, the culture of near-constant connection through smartphones can make bullying seem inescapable. Therefore, teachers and parents alike need to maintain an awareness of the methods used for cyberbullying. Girls are usually the most common recipients of cyberbullying, and there is a tendency for those aged 15-17 to be targeted through mobile email and their social media channels. This often takes the familiar forms of name-calling and rumor-spreading but occurs in a very public space.
  • It’s also worth noting that cyberbullying doesn’t just occur on social media, but is increasingly present in gaming, and even the comment sections of websites. This can make it all the more difficult for teachers and parents to address, as it occurs on platforms that are disconnected from the classroom and in the public domain.
  • The upshot is often one of the best tools against cyberbullying is the ability to recognize signs it may be occurring. Alongside knowledge of the methods that might be utilized, keeping vigilant of how students’ behavior has changed can help to guide intervention. This could include anxiety or reluctance to use online platforms as part of their school work, reticence to discuss their social media platforms or share their accounts, and generally becoming withdrawn. It can even present as less enthusiasm for utilizing technology when it may have been a key interest in the past.

Keep Talking

  • Cyberbullying, like most other forms of abuse, thrives in silence. In remote school settings, it can be easy for students to feel disconnected from friends and teachers or feel that there isn’t a platform to discuss their problems, causing additional stress. Therefore, teachers, parents, and students need to work together to ensure there is always a space for discussion.
  • This begins with making sure that there are accessible communications channels. Certainly, teachers should ensure that both students and parents are provided with contact details to arrange meetings if there are potential issues. However, there should also be regular time set aside for educators to check in with individual learners. School administrators must allow time in the schedule for teachers to have conversations with students about how they are doing, and talk about things they are concerned about. Indeed, providing remote access to the school’s counselor can create a valuable safe space.
  • That said, there also needs to be effort put in place for open discussions. Schools need to educate remote students on how bullying presents and the consequences it can cause. For instance, in teenagers, body image is likely to affect their self-esteem and mental wellness. Society and the media — including social media — have often advertised unattainable standards, and this can be weaponized by cyberbullies. Teachers need to talk with their remote classes about this and help them to recognize when appearance-based bullying is designed to hurt them rather than being an accurate reflection of reality. Keep students part of this discussion, too, encouraging them to share behaviors they find concerning, and how you can all work together to address them.

More Serious Concerns For Teens

  • Many of the methods of cyberbullying are going to be through social media platforms and other means that most teens are already familiar with, such as abusive comments on social media channels, harassing emails, and so on. However, one of the more concerning issues that can affect teenagers is revenge porn. This is largely when a former sexual partner publicly posts private explicit images online as a form of particularly damaging revenge. This causes not just personal trauma, but can also impact the victim’s sense of self-worth and their ability to trust others. While there are laws in 34 states against the non-consensual publishing of explicit images, on top of the added complications if the victim is under 18, this does little to impact the situation.
  • Schools and institutions need to let their learners know that they have access to support. Provide them with documentation on what to do when they encounter cyberbullying, particularly in more serious forms of harassment like revenge porn. Give them guides as to what their immediate actions should be — filing Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown requests, and contacting the police. Where possible, provide free or subsidized online counseling services. Above all else, make it clear that being a teen doesn’t mean they should be less sensitive to cyberbullying, that your institution takes it seriously, and they will be treated respectfully.


  • Remote learning can provide the distance and isolation that can help cyberbullying to thrive. Teachers and parents must take time to understand the methods and signs of this form of abuse and maintain an open dialogue to help combat it. Important too is ensuring that all remote learners have a robust system of support to handle the damaging types of bullying they can face.
  • Amanda Winstead is a freelance writer out of Portland, Oregon focusing on many topics including educational technology. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter @AmandaWinsteadd.
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