News 4 Special Report: Bullying Beyond the Playground, Part One

By: Erica Proffer Email
By: Erica Proffer Email

“You’re such a freak!”

“Everyone hates you!”

“Why don't you just die?”

Pretty harsh words that no one would want to hear. But for many kids, it's what they face every day.

Their peers-- hiding behind text messages and social websites-- are sending them vulgar, mean or threatening messages and images.

"I had texts sent around about me about all this bad stuff. It made me out to be a drug dealer. I'm not like that,” says one 8th Grade student in the Houston County School System.

While some call it "kids being kids," the abuse can be so cruel, so hurtful, it leads to failing grades, depression, anxiety or worse.

Some studies show many of the children who have been involved in school shootings were victimized by bullies.

"Not only is there a suspect, but there's a victim. He may feel so threatened, that he has to protect himself, and his protection may overflow to innocent people wherever that happens." says Captain Tony Gonzalez, Houston County Sheriff's Office.

"Parents can sort of separate real world and online world, but with kids, that technology is so baked into their daily existence, there really isn't a dividing line," says Marian Merritt, Internet Safety Advocate.

Cyber bullying can be more than just hurtful messages or images.

It can also involve posting sensitive or private information about another person on line, or it can be pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad.

"There was a text message going around that was of a girl with no shirt on and people were saying it was someone that it really wasn't" says Kaley Howard, 9th Grade Student.

"You get a message every five minutes about something about somebody” says Reid Kirkland, Student.

"You’re not looking at someone face to face. It's easy to say things that you would not normally say because you're not actually face to face with them," says Tim Pitchford, Superintendent of Houston Co. Schools

36 states have taken an active stance against bullying and have passed laws to help control it.

Florida recently approved its law, and all schools in the state must now draft an anti-bully policy.

Alabama is the only state in the Tri-state area that has no such law

Tomorrow, we’ll have how you, your children's schools and law enforcement can get involved to help fight back against the bullies.

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