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Cyberbullying Concerns Grow As Kids Spend More Time Online During COVID Pandemic

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The pandemic has turned school into a virtual experience for millions of kids. Researchers say cyberbullying is still happening and it's not just among teenagers.

COVID-19 forced Shellen White's son to take classes at home. She says that's when remote learning became a lesson in cyberbullying for her son Jaylen.

"Once he started logging into Zoom for his classes, we started to receive messages," she says.

Someone apparently hacked the sixth grader's computer and sent messages like "I will find and kill Jaylen."

"He can't understand why somebody would want to bully him, and he really doesn't understand why somebody would want to kill him," White says.

New research from the Cyberbullying Research Center finds more than 14% of tweens, nine to 12 years old, have experienced cyberbullying.

"It affected their feelings about themselves, it affected their friendships," says professor Dr. Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center.

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He says it's not clear if online bullying is increasing now that kids are spending more time on devices.

But a report from L1ght did find a 70% increase in hate speech between teenagers during online chats when the pandemic started.

"The vast majority of kids who are cyberbullied are also being bullied at school," Patchin says.

He says it's important to make sure kids can protect themselves.

"Work with them to understand the tools that the app, or the game, or the site have to kind of thwart online abuse. So, do they know how to block somebody? Do they know how to report somebody?" Patchin says.

He adds that it's also important for kids to feel comfortable enough to talk to their parents about cyberbullying when they experience it.

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