MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - A new school year has begun and for many children it means a new year of eating lunch by themselves and faking sick so they don't have to face the bully that's making life very hard.
A professor at Mercer University has some hints for those kids and their parents on how to deal with bullying in a world where bullies come in different forms.
Dr. Joseph Jones, an assistant professor at the Tift College of Education calls himself an expert on bullying. He was on the front lines of this national problem.
"I'm a former high school English teacher," he told 41NBC.
With his observations he's published papers, wrote his dissertation on the subject and even made a documentary, highlighting the tragedies of bullying in the 21st century, inlcuding the numerous suicides resulting from bullying. The documentary is called "and you, and you, and you".
"It gets worse in middle school," Dr. Jones says. "Middle school is the prime time where bullying behavior really happens."
And contrary to popular belief among pre-teens--
"It's ok to tell somebody," says Jones.
He wants children to feel empowered if someone is harrassing them. He also says students may feel embarrassed to talk to their parents about the problem, so teachers should be observant.
"If we put a suggestion box in our classroom where kids can write anonymous notes and put a suggestion in the box and say 'Hey, I was spat on today and shoved in my locker and this kid did it. Can we please do something about it?' And not have to sign it or whatever--but then that teacher realizes 'OK, there is something going on, I need to open my eyes, I need to watch, I need to walk through the bathrooms, I need to bring my colleagues in, I really need to pay attention," Jones suggests.
He rejects the idea that bullying is a part of life that everyone has to endure. He says both school and cyber-bullying can have life-altering effects.
"A lot of high school kids who have been bullied repeatedly over the years think that college is going to be just as bad and they choose not to go to college," he told 41NBC. A fear many children face all too early, and one that is not addressed until it's too late.
Jones also says parents need to be aware of what messages their child is posting and receiving on social media websites. He says parents should have their child's username and password to monitor their online activity to prevent tragedies from online bullying.