Center middle-schoolers deliver cyber-bullying advice to KC kids through fun play

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's happening and, sometimes, right underneath parents' eyes. Cellphones, social media and video games offer a brand new breed of bullying problems to address.

No matter the circumstances: Nobody has to be bullied. In the digital age, experts say the trouble has spread to online video games, where young people are being harassed by their peers.

On Monday, drama students from Center Middle School performed their "Anti Bullying Traveling Show" as students at Boone Elementary School learned about respect and kindness while gaming.

"'Sup dude?" one actor shouted from the stage in the Boone Elementary gymnasium Monday.

In a fun way, the "Fortnite Generation" heard an important message about telling trusted adults when they're bullied through technology and refusing to take part in putting others down. The Center Middle School actors emulated the popular dances Fortnite players celebrate as part of the game they love.

"We just want to tell kids how to prevent other people from bullying you," Charleigh Harper, a sixth grade student from Center Middle School, said Monday.

Harper said being a kid nowadays is tough, and the games and devices preteens play should be a safe haven from the troubles of bullying.

"You're already feeling self-conscious about yourself. You're already, like, really emotional, especially in sixth grade because you're transitioning into going to seven classes a day rather than one," Harper said.

Center School District administrators said this play has changed a lot since its first inception seven years ago. Sage Kelly, Center Middle's drama teacher, said she's learned that when young people gather to play games online, they don't always associate faces with their actions. That change happened when technology took over.

The play emphasized three key courses of action for students who might feel bullied:

  • Tell Two: Share news of the experience with two trusted adults. (The play's script suggests one adult at home, and one adult at school.)
  • Don't Delete: Keep proof of what was said so you can show to others.
  • Don't Respond: Don't continue the negative experience by saying mean things.

"I don't think even half the time, they who see they're bullying. At some point, it would be easy to tell two. It's a trusted adult. It could be school or a friend's mom who overheard it," Kelly said.

Elementary-level students, such as Boone Elementary fifth-grader Aubrey Steele, said the play she saw Monday taught her to use the Golden Rule, and when in doubt, to show others respect instead of posting mean things online.

"They told me just to respect someone, that could be just saying 'Hi' or 'Thank you,' or 'Excuse me' or the smallest things," Steele said.

Kelly said every parent needs to be attentive to this problem, and to assure their kids aren`t contributing to an online problem that's hurting young people. The metro teacher added students will perform the play for students at all four elementary schools in the district within the month of October.