Spate Of Teen Suicides Leads To Concerns That Bullying Is On The Rise: Top Expert Says ‘No’


Oct. 29 2012, Published 12:00 p.m. ET

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Felicia Garcia, the 15-year-old New Yorker who jumped in front of a train because she was fed up being teased about her sex life. Amanda Todd, the Canadian teen who committed suicide after being cyber-bullied about a topless photo...

It seems every day another adolescent hits the headlines for taking their own life after being harassed online. But while it may seem that bullying is on the rise, one expert tells that the nature -- not the number -- of cases that has changed.

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Therapist and relationship expert Dr. Philip B. Dembo has spoken exclusively to about the worrying headline-grabbing incidents. He says: “This issue is a big issue, but it’s not that it’s more common today. It’s that there are more ways to bully today than in the past.

“We didn’t have the Internet. We didn’t have that as a venue as we do today," Dr. Dembo tells

“It is so much more visible now. If you made fun of me 20 years ago it was between you and me and the people who saw you do it.

“But if you put it out there on Facebook and Twitter, so many more people out there know about it. It’s exposed.”

Dr. Dembo knows what he’s talking about. The 55-year-old had scoliosis as a child and was teased because he wore a body cast to straighten his spine. But he thinks that the Internet and social media have not only made bullying easier to do, it also makes it harder for the victims to recover from.

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“Now we have a much bigger, more sophisticated way of bullying,” he says. “Cyberspace, social media and the Internet – they go hand in hand.

“We’re raising kids to be more and more detached from their conscience. We live in a world now where we don’t have to look people in the eye. We can say things to people without being in front of them.

“And when you do that from five years of age when you first get on a computer, all the way into your 90s, you have a different kind of false courage because you’re not as attached to feeling what it might feel like to put somebody else down, make them scared or bully them.

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“So what we’re finding is that the level of bullying is more catastrophic.”

Dr. Dembo, who has written the book The Real Purpose of Parenting: The Book You Wish Your Parents Read, encourages victims of bullying to speak out, even if they are being teased about their own sexual behavior that has become public.

“You still have to stand up for your own dignity,” he says. “It’s very difficult to have courage by standing up for what’s right when you’re also ashamed of some of your own behavior.

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“But you have to have a voice that creates boundaries.

“You have to tell your parents and the authorities. Because when you get people involved the bully loses the power.”


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