• The online classes made an 11-year-old student happy that she would not meet the bully in her school. But that was short-lived as the bully appeared in the Zoom meetings and chat groups of her classmates.
  • In the chat groups and Zoom meetings, the virtual bully dominated the conversation and made a classmate feel small.
  • A mother who noticed the bullying because her daughter was using her phone, said: “I have witnessed cyberbullying done to my child in the messages sent in their class Viber group. The bully will often send hostile, negative messages that make my child feel like she is a lesser person. The bully is also the loudest and noisiest person in the chat group, often seeking attention by bragging and putting down certain children that she picks on.”
  • A bully who changed her ways when she realized her mistake said her classmates turned on her and she became the bullied.

If you think that online schooling will spare your kids from their bullies, think again.

Hardly a month since the virtual classroom started, instances of bullying have already been reported. Parents, most of them not very familiar with the cyber world, will likely not notice.

cyberbullying - The bully is still present in today’s online classes

Tanya (not her real name), 11, a victim of virtual bullying, already dislikes the online schooling set-up. She finds the lessons and assignments tiring, and she is exasperated with technical glitches that keep her attention away from her schoolwork.

Her only consolation was she thought she would no longer see the class bully every day.

But Tanya’s relief was short-lived. Soon her classmates began to create chat groups and Zoom meetings to keep in touch. What was supposed to be a happy space for girls to laugh and share stories turned into an ordeal as the class bully joined the virtual meetings and flexed her dominance.

“When I joined a Zoom meeting with some of my friends and the bully joined, she continuously talked so I couldn’t. I ended up feeling sad, and I left,” Tanya shared.

Tanya is not the only one victimized by the bully, as her friends also complained of the same unpleasant treatment. “I can recall a time when my friend was nominated for class president, only to get a text from the bully telling her to drop out,” Tanya said.

To the bully’s annoyance, Tanya’s friend won.

Tanya’s dismay over the presence of the bully stems from last year when the bully had spread rumors that made her other classmates avoid her.

“I think bullies do that because they feel insecure about themselves. They want to fit in, and they think bullying will make them fit in and be popular,” Tanya reflected.

But she found a consolation from all the bullying. “I found out who my real friends are,” she said.

Tanya is fortunate that she has a healthy self-esteem, and she can easily talk to her parents about bullying incidents.

Her mother, Jane (not her real name), is very conscious of Tanya’s behavior and daily routine.

Tanya also uses her mother’s phone so she can chat with her friends; in doing so, Jane can read back on the messages and monitor incidents of bullying.

“I have witnessed cyberbullying done to my child in the messages sent in their Viber class group,” Jane shared.

“The bully will often send hostile, negative messages that make my child feel like she is a lesser person. The bully is also the loudest and noisiest person in the chat group, often seeking attention by bragging and putting down certain children that she picks on.”

Jane has encouraged her daughter to defend herself and speak out against the bully. However, Tanya is told never to be the first one to start a fight or provoke the bully.

“We believe it’s a blessing in disguise that we can see who the bully is through her text messages, so we can encourage our child to avoid her toxic company. If the situation worsens, we will talk to the school,” said Jane.

When the bully becomes the bullied

Cases of bullying are not always black and white, where the bully is painted as bad guy and the victim is the good guy. Sometimes, the bully doesn’t even know that he or she is already causing others so much pain.

This was the case of Hermione (not her real name), 14, who admitted to being a bully when she was younger. When she realized her mistake and changed her ways, her classmates began to turn on her and she became the one who was bullied.

cyber - The bully is still present in today’s online classes

“From my past experience of being a bully and being bullied, I find that there are some kids out there who think what they’re doing is cool or funny and they don’t realize that it is wrong,” she said.

When online schooling was implemented, Hermione had “mixed feelings.” On one hand, she appreciates how “organized” the system is, so she can easily keep up with her lessons and activities. However, she misses going to the actual school and interacting with her teachers.

As for her classmates, Hermione has limited any interactions with them. “I only talk to them when necessary, but yes I still communicate with them through group chat,” she said. “I don’t really like talking to other people so I don’t bother trying to communicate with them if it’s unrelated to school work.”

So far, Hermione said she hasn’t experienced any instance of bullying since she has personally limited her communication with the other kids.

Her mother, Robin (not her real name), admitted she had more difficulty dealing with bullying incidents when her daughter was going to school compared to now. Robin said that a teacher used to bully her daughter, calling her a “dangerous child” in front of the class.

“I also observed, during school activities, that there were some children who gave her the cold treatment and would deliberately leave her out of conversations. Last year, some of her female classmates would call her names and would make fun of her even if she wasn’t doing anything,” she said.

Robin noticed that Hermione lost self-confidence, and she had a difficult time trusting other kids because she was fearful they will not like her.

Robin is very proactive with bullying incidents, since she wrote a letter to the teacher who bullied her daughter and asked for a meeting with the class adviser. The teacher apologized, and the school’s guidance counselor even talked to the kids who were bullying her daughter.

Thankfully, the bullying incidents mellowed after Robin’s intervention.

To make sure cyberbullying does not affect her daughter, Robin briefed Hermione about the dangers of social media and online access. She explained that some websites are not ideal for children, and Hermione was told not to go online unless necessary. Robin likewise drew the line when it came to entertaining strangers online.

What should parents do about bullying cases?

To protect children from incidents of bullying, the Department of Education (DepEd) has implemented a Child Protection Policy that mandates all schools to have Child Protection Committees.

Parents whose kids are being bullied should talk to their schools about it and inquire about their existing policies on bullying.

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Atty. Gil Anthony Aquino, Child Rights Officer of DepEd, said that parents can file complaints of bullying with the school head or principal, and the school will arrange a meeting between the parents of the bully and the bullied. “Depending on the outcomes, schools may ask the child to write a letter of apology or can be referred to the guidance counselors,” he said.

Since online classes have just recently rolled out, Aquino said they have no figures on cyberbullying yet. But DepEd already has various cyber safety initiatives for parents and teachers.

Aquino said that online classes can be a safe haven for students – just as long as they are made aware that bullying is a wrong thing to do.

“To prevent cyberbullying, it is very important to establish codes of conduct,” he said.

“For schools, it is important to lay down some guidelines especially in holding online classes or in general, about the use of technology. The schools should also capacitate the teachers on cyber safety.” (With a report from Merlina Hernando-Malipot)

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