The coronavirus pandemic has protected children from bullying, but that may not be helpful in the long run

When schools moved to online learning to protect students and staff from COVID-19, some kids found they were also being protected from another problem: bullying.

Experts say this break from bullying may not be helpful in the long run.

“For a while, I was in a dark place. And I was really self-conscious about everything I did — the way I acted the way I dressed,” said Bonita Springs teen, Claire Sattler.

She knows what it’s like to be bullied. At the time, she did her best to avoid the situation.

“There is a way to escape it, you know, and it’s by just not looking at it anymore,” she said.

Now, that opportunity to escape is presenting itself to kids all across Southwest Florida.

Thanks to online classes, students are getting a break from bullying, but mental health experts, like Dr. Alise Bartley with the Community Counseling Center, warn the temporary relief could set them up for a setback.

“We have to continually be certain that our clients are being exposed to those social situations so that they can figure out how to handle them most appropriately,” Bartley said.

Laura Guarino, a licensed clinician with SalusCare, says part of the healing process also involves confronting bullies.

“If they’re able to confront it, and deal with this stuff and say, ‘You don’t matter, I matter, what I think matters, and then I’m going to move on and forget about you,’ they do better,” she said.

For now, Sattler says, there is a way kids can use this opportunity to help themselves:

“Use this time away from bullying to just really look at yourself, really think about what you like about yourself, the things about you that you wouldn’t change for the world, the best qualities you have and remember that the next time anyone says anything to you.”

Mental health counselors also warn with children spending more time online, cyberbullying is going up as well, so parents may want to keep a closer eye on their children’s online accounts.

Below is a list of resources for children and teens who may need help with bullying or other mental health emergencies:
Reporter:Veronica Marshall
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