Cyberbullying migrating to Zoom during virtual learning

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston ISD welcomed students back into the classroom Monday, but 16 schools had to close due to COVID-19.

Hundreds of kids are back to virtual learning at a time when cyberbullying is happening more and more.

It's no secret online attacks happen through social media on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. But safe school advocates are now seeing the bullying migrate to Zoom, often during virtual school.

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Children face cyberbullying from multiple places, including Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. But now there's a new threat: Zoom.



"Because people are just stuck in their homes and have nothing better to do with their lives, so they create drama," says Ava Reistroffer, a sophomore at Memorial High School.

ABC13 sat down with four teens, including Ava, who are now back in school after months of virtual learning.

WATCH FROM ABC13 UNSOLVED: Houston high school students share their experiences about cyberbullying
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ABC13's Courtney Fischer talked to Houston high school students who live under the threat of cyberbullying as attacks move from traditional social media platforms to Zoom. Here is how parents can help stop it.



They all say while they haven't been a target of any cyber attacks, they all know a student who has been bullied online.

"Bullying will never go away. There are just more places for it," said Hannah McCormack, a junior at Memorial.

According to cyberbullying.org, about half of teens have been victims of cyberbullying at some point, but only one out of every 10 tells a parent if they've been targeted.

"The teacher's teaching, and like I always say, the chatroom is roaring," says Rania Mankarious, CEO of Crime Stoppers. "You have kids saying, 'Hey, look at Lindsey's room, that's funny, look at this, look at that.'"

For teens who have spent years creating and perfecting an online image that's different from real life, one Zoom view of their room or their house can destroy everything.

"You get to see how their life really is," says Julia Williams, another sophomore at Memorial.

Mankarious has one piece of advice for every parent: look at your kid's phone today. Bullies and victims hide behind those screens.

"How often have you stopped and looked at your child's phone? Looked at what they're posting?" Makarious asks. "I get pushback all the time: 'No, that's their private space. They're just having fun. I have such a great child. We live in a great area.' None of that applies when we're talking about social media."

Crime Stoppers has worked on bullying prevention, visiting classrooms and talking with students since 1997 as part of their Safe School Institute. Since the pandemic, all of those school visits have been suspended. Crime Stoppers was forced to adapt. You can learn more about their virtual programs on the Crime Stoppers website.

Follow Courtney Fischer on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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