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How Rumors Affect Teens

by Debby Mayne

Rumors are often exciting and juicy, and many people find the urge to spread them overwhelming. But spreading rumors is a form of bullying, and teenagers are susceptible to being victims from their peers. Schools are a hotbed of all sorts of social issues -- including gossip and name-calling -- that can have long-term negative effects.

Reasons People Start Rumors

Many people start rumors because it gives them a sense of superiority, and they feel like part of the group when they participate, according to PBSKids.org. Saying malicious things about others turns attention on the person who slanders, and it often provides a sense of power. Some people spread gossip about others because they're jealous of another person and what she has.

Confidence Buster

Most teenagers need to feel accepted by their peers, so rumors create a lack of confidence and may lead to depression. If it isn't stopped, it may become more serious and be the catalyst for drug use, social development problems or even suicide. In some cases, the victims are so tormented that they become angry and retaliate with violence, according to Bullyingstatistics.org.

Loss of Trust

Rumors that start with a secret to a friend become a betrayal of confidence and create a lack of trust. When the teen tells a friend something in private, it should never go past that person. However, the temptation to tell others may give the betrayer a feeling of importance he can't resist. He may even embellish the story to make it more appealing and interesting. The target of the rumor will never be able to trust his friend again.

Feeling of Exclusion

Gossip gives the person being talked about the feeling of not being part of the group. It diminishes her self-worth and makes her feel as though others are more important or worthy of having friends. During the teen years, the need to fit in is powerful, so having someone spreading rumors may cause a teen to feel as if something is wrong with her.

How Adults Can Help

Parents, teachers and other adults in the teen's life can do several things to help deal with rumors. They can praise the teens when they do the right thing, and this will diminish some of the negative effects of the gossip. They can also be available to listen to concerns, offer suggestions and intervene if necessary.

Solutions for Teenagers

Teenagers need to have a line of defense during stressful social situations. According to Teenshealth.org, they should speak to an adult such as a parent, school counselor or teacher. Finding a trustworthy and loyal friend may provide the emotional support until the rumors pass. Another option is to calmly confront the person who started the rumor and explain that the rumor is malicious and false. Then find some activity to help rebuild confidence and inner strength.

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