Online School Is a Popular Option to Avoid Bullying

young teen on a laptop


Even though schools usually have strict anti-bullying policies and detailed bullying prevention programs, students still sometimes find themselves as targets of bullying. Whether it occurs through traditional bullying or cyberbullying, they are being harassed, intimidated, and threatened online and in the hallways at schools on a daily basis.

In fact, more than 1 in 5 high school students reported being bullied on school property in the last year and more than 1 in 7 kids were electronically bullied through such things a social media and texting; and, far too often, administrators and teachers are powerless to stop it.

Because kids who bully tend to be opportunists, they target other students when the risks of being caught are very low. For this reason, it is extremely difficult for teachers and administrators to discipline students for bullying when they do not witness it. It becomes even more challenging to address bullying when it takes place online or through social media.

Consequently, bullying has reached epidemic proportions and often leads to high levels of anxiety and stress for the impacted students and their parents.

For this reason, a number of parents are turning to online schools to meet their students' educational needs and leaving the brick and mortar schools—and the bullies—behind. More than 4.5 million kids are enrolled in K-12 online schools nationwide.

This number is significant considering that less than a decade ago only 50,000 students in the U.S. were utilizing online schools as an educational option. What's more, according to a study conducted by Evergreen Education Group, 30 states offer fully online schools and 26 offer virtual high schools. So, the options for other educational opportunities are growing, giving parents and students impacted by bullying more options.

Benefits of Online Schools

When it comes to bullying, online high school and middle school programs allow students to study in the privacy of their home (or in a library or a coffee shop) away from the peers who are targeting them.

Not only does it provide a safe environment for them to continue their schooling, but it also provides them with the opportunity to study at their own pace. As an added bonus, these schools also may have course offerings that are not offered at a more traditional high school or middle school.

Reduced Anxiety

Furthermore, parents whose students have enrolled in online school programs have reported that their students experience less anxiety and stress and perform better overall. Often times, kids who are bullied have difficulty concentrating in class because they are so focused on the fear of being bullied and are concerned about what others might be thinking of them.

They also may spend their time thinking about ways to stay safe or plot revenge instead of focusing on their classwork. Likewise, kids who are bullied often skip school or ask to be called in sick because they just do not want to face anymore bullying. This results in slipping grades and truancy issues.

But when kids who are being bullied are removed from the bullying situation at their traditional school and enrolled in an online program, most parents report that their kids start to flourish.

Enhanced Academic Engagement

Not only do they keep up with their studies more, receive better grades, and have better attendance records, but they also seem happier and better adjusted. And, despite the typical stereotypes about online schools being isolating, this is anything but the truth.

Many online schools make a concerted effort to encourage collaboration among their students.

Some schools even offer meetups, field trips, and social events like dances. What's more, in some areas, students can still participate in extracurricular activities like sports and music even though they attend school online.

Overall, most research suggests that online schools are often on par with more traditional educational environments. Students are encouraged to discuss the material with their teachers and interact with their peers on a consistent basis.

Increased Classroom Participation

Additionally, some online students report that they are more likely to participate in classroom discussions because they are not worried about what people will think. In a traditional setting, they might be too worried about what the kid sitting next to them will say or think, especially if bullying is an ongoing experience for them.

So, they keep quiet and miss out on valuable learning experience. With an online school, they may learn to come out of their shell sometime.

Is Online School Right for Your Child?

While online school may seem like the perfect solution for escaping a bullying situation, it is important to realize that this type of educational arrangement is not ideal for every student and every family. For instance, an online school may mean your teen is home alone for large chunks of time during the day even if no one else is home. You need to ask yourself if your student is responsible enough to handle this type of freedom.

Additionally, if your student is heavily involved in extracurricular activities through their traditional school, withdrawing from that school could be more of a burden than a help, especially when students are no longer be able to do the things they love. It also can be more challenging to find tutors or to get extra help for your student when they need it.

Learning Style

You also need to consider whether or not your student has the time management skills as well as the self-discipline and self-control to manage this type of learning situation. Not every student can handle the immense amount of freedom online schools offer. Your student needs to be able to manage the demands of an online program with very little adult help or supervision.

Finally, consider how much support and help you will be able to provide as they transition to this new learning environment. For instance, are you able to help them learn the technological aspects of the program that the school uses if they are struggling? Do you know where to get help if something does not work properly?

Do you have the tools at home needed for an online program such as a laptop and printer (or does the school provide those tools)? What about textbooks, microscopes, and other educational tools? You need to know if these are provided by the school or are an added expense.

Keep in mind that there will be an adjustment period; and your student may need your help now more than ever. Think carefully about whether or not you have the time and the energy to help make their transition a smooth one.

Making a Smooth Transition

The decision to transfer from a traditional school setting to an online school does take some planning. For instance, the guidelines for withdrawing from a public school vary from state to state. So, the first step in removing your child from a traditional school setting is to educate yourself on your state's guidelines for withdrawal.

You also need to be sure the online school you select is accredited.

In other words, it needs to not only be recognized as a viable educational opportunity by your state, but it also needs to be accredited by a regional accreditation board. If you select a school that does not meet this criteria, it could impact your student's future college application.

So, be sure you do your homework and find a school with a solid academic reputation, one that will be recognized by the colleges your student wants to apply to. And, if AP courses or access to dual enrollment is important to you, you need to be sure the online school you select offers these types of programs.

Next, you need to be sure your student understands that the life of an online student is much different than that of a traditional student. For example, an online student might start the day working on some math equations that are due before lunch. Then, the student may log on and participate in a classroom discussion, have lunch at home, and then take a timed quiz in science.

Later in the afternoon, the student may review a lesson assigned by an English teacher and then take advantage of some online tutoring. There is less structure and more flexibility, but the workload and vigor may be more challenging than what they are used to.

The key is that your student realizes that online school is not an excuse to sit on Netflix all day or to sleep late in the mornings. It's also not wise to try to watch YouTube and listen to online lectures at the same time.

Stress to your student that they need to be disciplined and use good time management skills to complete their assignments on time. The freedom associated with online school takes some getting used to and can be very tempting for students to procrastinate because they do not have a school bell signaling when it is time to change classes.

Moving on From Bullying

Removing your student from the bullying situation is the first step toward healing from bullying. But it is important that you do not assume that attending an online school will cure all the problems bullying caused.

There are a number of consequences that victims of bullying experience including low self-esteem, anxiety issues, identity issues, and an inability to trust others to name a few. These things do not just go away. True, they may lessen in severity, but they still need to be addressed.

Consequently, it may be helpful for students to talk about what they experienced with a trusted adult like a counselor or a religious leader. Likewise, there are times when bullying will follow your student even to the online school environment. This situation is especially likely if your student was experiencing cyberbullying.

As a result, you need to be sure you are still monitoring the situation and taking what steps you can to report any cyberbullying when it occurs. Do not hesitate to report the bullying to the school principal and the police if your student is being threatened or if someone is impersonating them online.

It's also important to help your student find ways to build their self-esteem as well as grow and learn from this situation. Overall, the primary goal is that students would learn from the bullying experience but not allow it to define them.

You also want to be sure your student does not use online schooling as an excuse to isolate themselves from the rest of the world. The purpose of online school is to give them another alternative for school where they will thrive and learn. While it is removing them from a challenging situation, you should work hard to make sure they do not see moving to an online school as a failure or a sign of weakness.

Emphasize that it takes a lot of courage to step out and try something new. Remind them of how proud you are of them for taking this step.

A Word From Verywell

Bullying is a challenging situation for both parents and students; and, if you are having trouble addressing the issue at your student's traditional school, it may be time to start researching other educational opportunities like an online school.

With proper planning and research, you can make this idea a reality for your student. Just be sure you consider whether your student can handle this freedom and has the time management skills to be successful. And, don't forget to take time to address the consequences of the bullying your student experienced.

Transferring to a new school environment does little to help students if they are still battling the scars that bullying can leave behind. You want to be sure they are taking steps to heal and recover from the bullying they experienced.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing Youth Violence.

  2. Plexousakis SS, Kourkoutas E, Giovazolias T, Chatira K, Nikolopoulos D. School Bullying and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms: The Role of Parental Bonding. Front Public Health. 2019;7:75. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00075

  3. Guide to Online High School.

  4. Evergreen Education Group. Keeping pace with K-12 online and blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice.

  5. Ni AY. Comparing the Effectiveness of Classroom and Online Learning: Teaching Research Methods. J Public Aff Educ. 2013;19(2):199-215. doi:10.1080/15236803.2013.12001730

  6. Rigby K. Consequences of Bullying in SchoolsCan J Psychiatry. 2003;48(9):583-590. doi:10.1177/070674370304800904

Additional Reading

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.