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How Gossip Affects Teens

by C.O. Ryan, studioD

Gossip has long been considered a normal part of a teenager’s life. At its best, gossip may only be one person passing on personal information about someone else. But at its worst, gossip can be a malicious form of slander and accusation that can injure a teen’s self-esteem. With the advent of the Internet and cell phones, gossip has become far more socially and emotionally damaging for many teens.

When Gossip Becomes Indirect Bullying

For many years, parents, social workers and educators were mainly concerned with the physical bullying that goes on between boys. There is now an increasing awareness of indirect bullying by girls in particular. This can consist of passing rumors or lies about another person, either in person or via cell phones or the Internet. This can have a profoundly negative effect on a teen’s mental and emotional health and social development, according to Bullying Statistics.

Gossip as Emotional Bullying

Gossip becomes emotional bullying when teens intentionally use it to socially isolate a fellow student, leaving her alone and often depressed about being excluded. This can be difficult for teens to cope with, as they are particularly sensitive to what their peers think of them. The simple act of eating lunch alone can become a traumatic event when a teen is aware that others are discussing and intentionally excluding her.

Gossip as Cyber-Bullying

With increasing use of cell phone texting and social media websites, gossip among teens has taken on a darker, more sinister aspect. Online social media gossip can quickly turn into cyber bullying as teens post insulting comments, humiliating stories and even nude photos of other teens. Negative personal or sexual rumors are particularly damaging to a teen’s feelings of self-worth. Gossip as cyber bullying has led to depression for many teens and in some cases, suicide, says Bullying Statistics.

Dealing with Gossip

Though parents may tell their children not to care about what others say about them, they usually care very deeply. Teens dealing with gossip may experience highly charged emotions after being betrayed, excluded, lied about or humiliated. They will need the listening ear of a good friend, parent or professional counselor. This can help lessen the depression, anxiety and alienation a teen experiences after being victimized by gossip.

About the Author

C.O. Ryan is a children's advocate, former teacher and community volunteer. She holds a Masters degree in education and theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and is the author of a book about peace in Northern Ireland.

Photo Credits

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