Recognizing and Preventing Child Abuse, Neglect & Mental Health Symptoms in a Virtual Classroom


This school year may look a little different with virtual classrooms and online learning.
It’s important more than ever for teachers & staff to be able to recognize and prevent child abuse, neglect, and mental health symptoms of their students through a virtual classroom.

Here’s our top tips including downloadable flyers to share with teachers & staff.

Recognizing and Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect in a Virtual Classroom

Set a Safe Environment

  • Have rules about where students and teachers can video conference from
  • Teachers and students should be appropriately dressed
  • Classroom technology rules stay the same – no taking pictures or videos of the of classmates or instructors

Physical Indicators

  • Visible bruises
  • Unexplained illness or injuries
  • Parents use harsh physical discipline
  • Child absent from virtual classroom and missing most of their work
  • Personal hygiene and/or surroundings are not taken care of
  • Parent or child is abusing drugs or alcohol

Characteristics of Abuse

  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Lacking adult supervision
  • Not receiving help for physical/medial problems
  • Seeming frightened when someone enters the room
  • Overly quiet not participating in class discussion, atypical for the child
  • Overly compliant, passive or withdrawn
  • Parent displays little concern for child
  • Parent denies existence or solely blames child for problems at home or school
  • Parent demands unrealistic expectations the child cannot achieve
  • Negative relationship between parent and child

Regularly Engage with Children and Their Caregivers

  • Make clear how you can be contacted and when you plan to connect
  • Ensure the ability to have private conversations with children and families when needed

Ask Questions and Be Curious

  • Talk regularly to children and their caregivers.
  • Ask specific questions
  • Notice any changes in the way the child or adult responds to questions
  • Ask if there is any need of support and work with them on finding support

Observe the Environment

  • Monitor the environment closely during video chats for changes in behaviors as well as any sounds heard during virtual contact (i.e. yelling in the background)
  • Observe and document any bruises or marks you observe during virtual contacts
  • Ask who is in the home and pay attention to the environment and who may be listening to the call

Recognizing Mental Health Symptoms in a Virtual Classroom

Did you know?

  • 1 in 5 children have a mental health condition.
  • Half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14.
  • 70-80% of children who have mental health conditions never receive treatment.

How to Monitor Student Mental Health During Covid-19

  1. Trust your instincts – if you think something is off, act on that thought in whatever way is available to you: talk to your administrator, school counselor, or reach out directly to the parent or student if the school policy allows
  2. Use the standard metrics – attendance, completing work, performance on assessments. Also look for eye contact, body language, ability to focus, and vocal tone or speech patterns
  3. Be intentional – ask a few simple questions each time you post an assignment, lead a virtual class or have a video conference: how is everyone feeling? Is there anything on your mind? Is anyone stressed out over Covid-19? How about your parents and siblings, are they stressed?
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate – when you find out what’s going on, you can offer the appropriate support. If you don’t make contact, you are less likely to understand how you can best support the student
  5. Assume good will – remember that we’re living through a pandemic, so you are cautioned from assuming the worst. Be patient so everyone has a chance to get their bearings.

Downloadable Flyers to Share to Teachers & Staff

If you have questions or would like to enroll/ make a referral:



  • Trauma Sensitive Schools by C Hennessy (social worker) 2020
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