HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Every 7 seconds a child is bullied. It's a serious problem affecting so many of our youth.
In fact, nearly 75% of school shootings have been linked to harassment and bullying.
Bullying is a form of youth violence that's become far too common.
According to the CDC, 1 in 5 high school students reported being bullied on school property in the last year.
Crime Stoppers of Houston is working to address the issue by teaming up with the Mental Health foundation of West Michigan to create awareness and help students through a program called Be Nice.
Elementary school children are at the age when life should be care-free, happy, healthy and fun. It's when they learn how to make friends, grow and gain confidence. But it's also when they're learning how to deal with a problem most parents think wouldn’t happen this early on.
In a classroom Jenna Fondren asks, “ Has anyone in this room ever been bullied? I have . . . has anyone. Slowly hands go up as kids as young as 7- years-old, bravely admit they've been teased and pushed around.
Jenna Fondren is the Safe Schools Institute Manager for Crime Stoppers of Houston, “The younger kids are definitely struggling with bullying, feeling left out. A lot of kids feel like they're not good enough or that they're not being accepted for who they are.”
It's a something very few students are willing to discuss, but Jenna is giving the children at the Burnett Bayland Park a chance to open up and talk about it. She explains that bullying and mental health are two huge topics and the Be Nice program encompasses both of topics
Using a book called "One", Jenna reads examples of bullying to help young kids learn how to notice and address the problem. And gives them time to ask questions.
One student asks, “Is it true if somebody bullies you, it can make you kill yourself?”
The possibility of young children taking their lives is a harsh reality.Jenna says. “We're starting to hear the word suicide a lot more. I'm hearing kids say suicide as young as 3rd and 4th grade.”
And as kids get older, the bullying only gets worse.
“We're seeing a huge shift in just behavior and how they act and how ruthless kids are becoming at a really young age.” Jenna explains.
Crime Stoppers reports that 11% of Houston students didn’t go to school at least one day because they felt unsafe and among middle school students 45% are bullied on school property, and 24% report cyberbullying.
Many schools are struggling with trying to figure out how to combat bullying and social media in the same space.
With an older group of students, Jenna shares a 20 minute video that covers real life situations teens often face. Jenna says the video combines bullying and the social media effects and that students connect to the program, “What a lot of these kids have expressed to me is when they are feeling suicidal, there's like guilt and shame that's attached to it and they feel like something's wrong with them.”
Whether it's physical, verbal, social or cyber, bullying can affect all children and impact their overall mental health. Jenna understands these feelings all too well, she was bullied in middle school, it’s why she is so determined to make sure kids feel safe, secure, and happy
“We just want these kids to feel comfortable to speak to adults, speaking to their peers, speaking with their parents whether they're being bullied or struggling with any mental health.”
Crime Stoppers of Houston reports more than half of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.
The Be Nice program has been implemented in at least 31 school districts over the past two years.