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Remote learning and the potential for cyberbullying: What Houston parents should know

HOUSTON – Virtual learning is a whole new world for many students -- and along with it can come risks, like cyber bullying. As such, parents need to be aware of these risks.

Rania Mankarious, Executive Director with Crime Stoppers of Houston, explained how and why cyberbullying is happening during remote school settings.

“In Houston alone, 210,000 kids are doing remote learning and there’s a lot of kids that have literally opened the doors to their homes to everyone in their class and it’s creating a complete new dynamic, a full new set of issues for these kids that are trying to navigate a whole other spectrum for cyberbullying,” said Mankarious.

1. SCHOOL IMAGE VS SCHOOL REALITY

Upset teenage girl with long curly hair at home sitting at the table
Upset teenage girl with long curly hair at home sitting at the table (iStock)

For years, some kids created a “school image” and now all the sudden their home life doesn’t mirror or match that image in anyway.

“Now everybody in their class can see their rooms, their homes, maybe they have to share a room,” said Mankarious.

Solution: Talk to your kids about their image and value and what it means apart from “status” and ‘things”

2. KIDS IN HOMES WITH ISSUES

Upset child listening divorcing parents fight.
Upset child listening divorcing parents fight. (iStock)

Students might hear arguments stemming from other students’ homes.

“We don’t want kids to feel like they can’t log in, they’re so unsure of what’s going to erupt behind them that they would rather just not attend remote learning. So, we’re pleading adults to please be mindful,” said Mankarious.

Solution: Kids in these homes need to seek out an adult for help and intervention.

3.KIDS IN THE BEDROOMS

Teenage girl having online school class at home, in her bed.
Teenage girl having online school class at home, in her bed. (iStock)

There are kids doing their zoom classes in beds, mattresses and laying around couches.

“It is distracting for peers and teachers. Think about the fact that anything can be screenshot. Somebody can be taking a picture of the zoom session. It is something we need to think about,” said Mankarious.

Solution: Wherever they are doing their remote learning, ask kids to sit up.

4. WHILE TEACHERS ARE TEACHING, OPEN CHAT ROOMS ARE ROARING.

Mother Comforting Daughter Victimized By Online Bullying
Mother Comforting Daughter Victimized By Online Bullying (iStock)

Kids have been seen to actively, and in real time, group bully another student on a zoom chat or sending horrible private messages to each other.

“There is a moral code of conduct in every school and it applies whether you’re sitting in school or you are remote learning. You have to behave as a good digital citizen or as a good citizen in your school and teachers can only do so much.”

Solution: Parents should ask the school: how are they handling zoom chat rooms? Is someone monitoring the zoom chats? Will the chats be disabled so students can’t interface with each other?

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILDREN ARE BEING CYBERBULLIED?

“This is different than name calling. This is harassment,” said Mankarious, who recommends the following steps to take action.

• Report the situation to the technology, app, or social media provider.

• If the situation involves classmates, let the teacher know.

• Document the bullying: take screenshots and save texts.

• If necessary, get law enforcement involved.

Mankarious also want parents to remember that with the passing of David’s Law in Texas, the rules on cyberbullying were expanded to include what happens in school related activities.

To see Mankarious’s complete interview, watch the video above.


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