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Local psychologist has tips for dealing with bullying

By Jennifer Stagg | Posted - Mar. 30, 2010 at 6:28 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- News of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince's suicide has shocked not only her hometown in Massachusetts, but the entire country. Prosecutors say she was relentlessly bullied by nine classmates.

Prince's is one of several horrific cases of bullying in the national spotlight: The story of a 15-year-old set on fire by a group of boys, and that of an eighth-grader beaten so badly by a boy over a text message, she is now in a coma.

Did you know ...?
Bullying can take many forms, such as hitting and/or punching (physical bullying); teasing or name-calling (verbal bullying); intimidation using gestures or social exclusion (nonverbal bullying or emotional bullying); and sending insulting messages by phone or computer e-mail (cyberbullying).

"We talk about awareness, and we talk about getting to the kids before something happens," says Dr. Jonathan Bone, a psychologist with Salt City Psychology.

Bone says bullying has increased in the current economy; bigger class sizes and fewer teachers equal fewer eyes to watch for problems.

"Our culture doesn't necessarily condone violence, but it's everywhere," Bone says.

Possible warning signs:
• Comes home with torn, damaged, or missing pieces of clothing, books, or other belongings;
• Has unexplained cuts, bruises, and scratches;
• Has few, if any friends, with whom he or she spends time;
• Seems afraid of going to school, walking to and from school, riding the school bus, or taking part in organized activities with peers (such as clubs);
• Takes a long, "illogical" route when walking to or from school;
• Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly in school;
• Appears sad, moody, teary, or depressed when he or she comes home;
-Stop Bullying Now

He says the problem starts at home and carries into the classroom.

"They feel powerless, and so there's a way to obtain a sense of power at the school by picking on somebody smaller," Bone explains.

He says bullying isn't a new problem, but technology -- like cell phones and the Internet-- has taken it to a whole new level.

"You can kind of bully over cyber space, and you don't have to be any bigger than the kid that you are bullying," Bone says.

He says parents and teachers should look for detached behavior from bullied kids, like avoiding school or extracurricular activities and refusal to tell an adult you what's wrong, for fear of being deemed a "tattletale."

As for the bullies themselves, Bone suggests looking for the reasons behind their actions.

"It starts at home with parents, and attention to their kids -- modeling appropriate behavior with their kids so that they're not treating other people in the community in a negative way," Bone says.

E-mail: jstagg@ksl.com

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Jennifer Stagg

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