The Signs of Bullying: What to Look For in Your Kids - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

The Signs of Bullying: What to Look For in Your Kids

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It's a growing problem: More and more kids say they're bullied at school and online.

While the definitions of bullying have changed over the years, there's no question it's a real problem. And there's no easy solution.

Rhonda Herman asks her Midway High School freshman daughter a lot of questions.

"Was it a hard day at school?" she said. "You know, a lot of homework? Are you tired? The more questions you ask the better."

That's how she knows when something's not right.

"Usually she's very upbeat, happy and everything, so when she's like 'Yes, okay,' then I know I need to be asking questions."

Counselors say she's got it exactly right.

"That's when the parents needs to say, 'I've noticed there is something that's different; what's my next step?'" said Vanessa Gibson, a counselor at Midway High.

For most parents, that next step is simply talking to your kids regularly.

"Something that I've noticed with a lot of families is having a family dinner time together," Gibson said.

"I feel fortunate in that my daughter does share a lot with me, and I feel we have a very open and close relationship," said Laura Simon, a Midway mom with an 11-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter.

You also want to look for things like unexplained injuries or missing or damaged property.

Another warning sign: your son or daughter trying to avoid school altogether.

And it becomes an even bigger problem when bullying moves onto some of these newer technologies, because once the students actually leave the hallways, the school district has little control over their behavior.

In that cyber-bullying situation, you can report it to the Internet service provider or the cops. And alert the school so they can stop it from leaking into classrooms.

"My parents didn't talk to us about everything," Herman said. "Some things we had to learn on our own the hard way. I don't want to do that with my kids."

She wants them to know it's not their fault if they're picked on, and that they always have somewhere to turn.

Midway ISD is also expanding some of its anti-bullying programs to cover the whole district this year. 

Her freshman daughter is just a week and a half into a new year in a brand new school, but Sarah Marcum isn't worried.

"I think that my daughter gets along well with all of the different age groups and she can hold her own with various ages," Marcum said.

Not only does she get along, she helps others get along: "She's had instances where she's stood up against bullying."

She's the kind of student MISD wants to see more of.

"The idea is to get the kids to stand up instead of just stand by," said Herb Cox, principal of Midway Middle School.

Posters tacked to walls throughout the school aim to get kids to do just that.

They're students at Midway Middle, 10 students to a poster, 20 posters in all. Each kid holds his or her hand up to the camera with the words 'Stop Bullying' on them.

The goal: a family atmosphere.

"If you were to go to my house, you would see pictures of my kids on the wall," Cox said, "and so when you come to our school, you see pictures of our kids on the wall."

MMS is also adopting Rachel's Challenge this year, along with the rest of the district that didn't participate in past years.

Kids write random acts of kindness on paper chains all year long.

At the end of the year, the district lays them out so students can see just how much they did to combat bullies.

"It gives kids an opportunity to realize they're not alone, that it's really not appropriate, and that society doesn't look at it as an appropriate thing, and that it's wrong," Simon said.

Midway also has an anonymous tip line for bullying (761-5700) and a student-run group called 'Cool to be Kind.'

"I think everyone has to work together, parents, the school, the churches, it just has to be a topic that's continually being brought up," Herman said.

And with almost one in three 6th-12th grade students nationwide experiencing some type of bullying, every little bit helps.

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