: School bullying and cyberbullying dropped by up to 35% as schools went remote, but it’s returning to pre-pandemic levels


Remote learning has left millions of children feeling isolated from their friends, and alone during the school year, and also led to difficulty in keeping up on their studies, but it’s had one unforeseen benefit: A drop in bullying.

“Searches for school bullying and cyberbullying dropped 30%-35% as schools shifted to remote learning in spring 2020,” a paper by researchers at the Wheelock College of Education & Human Development and Boston University finds.

“The gradual return to in-person instruction starting in fall 2020 partially returns bullying searches to pre-pandemic levels,” they added. The study, released Monday, used Internet search data for real-time tracking of bullying patterns.

With approximately one-fifth of U.S. students reporting bullying each year, they concluded, “This rare positive effect may partly explain recent mixed evidence on the pandemic’s impact on students’ mental health and well-being.”

Surveillance of bullying typically occurs in school settings via self-reported surveys, the researchers wrote. “There are very few studies on bullying during the pandemic and even fewer using publicly-available nationwide data.”

“In this context, Google Trends data provide a unique opportunity for real time surveillance of bullying, while posing no risk to children and families,” they added. The results, they said, can also be updated in real time.

Another side-effect of the pandemic

As omicron spreads rapidly around the world, cases continue to soar. COVID-19 has killed 820,355 Americans. There is a daily average of 405,470 new cases in the U.S., up 204% over two weeks, according to the New York Times tracker.

A temporary fall in bullying is not the first positive side-effect of the pandemic that’s been reported. Vaccination helps protect millions of people from the coronavirus, but it may also help alleviate the scourge of anxiety and depression.

“While vaccines are primarily aimed at reducing COVID-19 transmission and mortality risks, they may have important secondary benefits,” according to a paper released last month from the University of Southern California and RAND Corp.

The scientists used data from U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey and cross-referenced those figures to state-level COVID-19 vaccination eligibility data to estimate secondary benefits of vaccination on mental-health outcomes.

“We estimate that COVID-19 vaccination reduces anxiety and depression symptoms by nearly 30%,” they concluded. Fear of testing positive among frontline workers and social isolation has taken an emotional toll on millions of people.

As the third year of the pandemic begins, only 62% of the U.S. population is currently fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures, and just 33% of people have received the booster shot.

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