Movie night in Gautier reveals warning signs of online bullies, victims

On Thursday, one Gautier group hosted a movie night to raise awareness about the serious consequences of cyber bullying.
On Thursday, one Gautier group hosted a movie night to raise awareness about the serious consequences of cyber bullying.

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - It has been in the news a lot lately: stories of teens who have been emotionally scarred by bullies. These days, much of that bullying happens online, so many parents probably don't realize their child may be involved.

On Thursday, one Gautier group hosted a movie night to raise awareness about the serious consequences of cyber bullying.

Sixth grader Jody Guy said he was bullied last year.

"I had someone who I thought was my friend. He ended up posting things on Facebook about me that wasn't true and it hurt my feelings a whole lot," said Jody.

As a parent, Shalett Weary knows the other side of bullying. She said her 12-year-old daughter showed characteristics that could have lead her on the path to being a bully.

"She came home angry one day about a little girl she had constantly been getting in trouble with at the school, and she said, 'Momma, I told everybody about it and the next time I'm going to do something.' So at that point, I knew I needed to intervene," said Weary.

Weary said that intervention turned her daughter into a different person. She wants other parents to recognize the warning signs. As a member of the Parent-Teacher-Student Organization at Gautier Middle School, she helped organize a movie night in the cafeteria.

The group showed the movie "CyberBully." It's based on a true story about a young lady who was a victim of online bullying.

So what should you watch for? Here are some signs of a child who is being bullied:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

Here are some signs that a child may be bullying others:

  • Get into physical or verbal fights
  • Have friends who bully others
  • Are increasingly aggressive
  • Get sent to the principal's office or to detention frequently
  • Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Don't accept responsibility for their actions
  • Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity

"You need to know the signs. So if your child is being bullied or is a bully, these are things to look for before someone gets hurt, before some commits suicide," said PTSO President Eric Funches.

Funches understands that pain. He said his brother, Steve, was bullied.  In 1998, just a week after his 19th birthday, Steve took his own life.

"When he committed suicide, of course, the guilt and everything we had to go through made that even more painful for us," said Funches. "So it's somewhat of a passion for me having personally gone through that. Parents really realize and that students realize if anybody says anything about suicide, to take it seriously."

Funches hopes movie night will make parents realize they are not helpless.

"This gives them that hope to let them know yes, there's counselors that are available. There are policies that really legally deal with this, so you don't feel like a victim. You can be a victor," said Funches. "We want to be able to empower students and parents to know there is something that can be done.  You don't have to feel like nobody cares."

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