Bullying during the pandemic

In February 2021, the Anti-Bullying Alliance surveyed pupils, school staff and, parents and carers about bullying and relationships with friends during this period of the lockdown when some children are in school but most taking part in learning at home. Over 400 people responded to the survey which took place from 1st – 7th February. It was not a scientific survey and was conducted online and promoted through our networks and on social media. More research is needed but we hope this round-up helps to paint a picture of the way that bullying has changed and presents itself during this pandemic.

Key messages 

  • 68% of young people said they feel less connected to their friendships than before the pandemic. The responses to the survey shows that this is having an impact on how they are feeling and there are feelings of isolation and loneliness.

“They don’t socialise so can’t bully” – School staff  

  • Some children are feeling very relieved to not be going to school due to the bullying they were experiencing in school prior to the pandemic.

“My child is happy she doesn’t have to go to school she is terrified of school due to previous bulling since primary school 3 years ago” – Parent

  • There is consensus that there is less bullying taking place face to face however there has been an increase in bullying taking place online particularly on social media sites, gaming and instant messaging apps.

“Well normally I get bullied by most of the people in my class but they can’t do it online” – Young person

“You can easily get more cyber bullied because we interact with each other on our phone.” – Young person

  • 75% of young people learning from home are not being given opportunities to communicate with other pupils during online lessons. Where they are allowed to use the ‘chat’ functions in online lessons, these can often be used to say unkind and bullying things.

“Pupils insult each other through the chat function” – School staff

  • Bullying is still taking place and is having a significant impact on the lives of those experiencing it.

“People are still kinda horrible” – Young person

  • Parents and children are worried about returning to school due to bullying and concerns about not having any friendships.

“More distant - worries about returning to school” – Parent

  • Children are experiencing bullying due to having had or family members having had COVID-19, particularly if their diagnosis led to school bubbles having to isolate.

“Some students are scared if they test positive that others will find out and they will be bullied as a result” – School staff

  • Online lessons are providing a window into children’s homes. We saw reports that children are experiencing bullying about their home, home life and the access they have to technology.

“People joke about your house or your family and screen grab lessons to change the picture and send it to friends.” – Young person

“When people don’t have enough money to buy better internet, or someone is talking and they say something wrong” – Young person

  • There were a few comments relating to the impact on those with protected characteristics – more research is needed.
  • There were some open-ended comments about children being kinder since the start of the pandemic.

Resources for download