How to Help Your Teen Deal with Gossip

Help your teen deal with gossip and rumors.
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Teens are particularly susceptible to being victimized by gossip. Not all gossip is vicious, but all gossip spreads very much like wildfire. And quite often, the truth gets distorted.

Gossip that began fairly innocently may quickly become quite harmful. A story about something that happened over the weekend may quickly spread from student to student. As each student passes the story on, the truth gets lost as the story gets twisted.

Within a few hours, the details may become exaggerated and the heart of the story may change completely. Suddenly, an innocent tale may turn into a harmful rumor that damages a teen’s reputation.

How Gossip Spreads

Teens are more susceptible to being hurt by gossip than adults, because they’re still essentially children trying to find their way in the world. Most teens experience a lot of self-doubt, and gossip can be very damaging to their self-confidence.

Spreading nasty rumors about someone behind her back separates her from others. She becomes outside the ‘circle,’ making her an easy target for a group to continue to spread gossip simply to be mean. 

Group psychology takes over. When a rumor is repeated over and over, some people may believe it, simply because “so many” people have repeated it that therefore it “must” be true. This, of course, is not true, but gossip can create this perception.

Forming a group or alliance with others that exclude the person who’s being gossiped about further excludes the person gossiped about, giving more credence to the mistaken perception that the gossip about this person must be true.

The Consequences of Vicious Gossip

Gossip isolates the victim from her peer group.

Time with friends is a crucial component to healthy development, and being cast out from a peer group can have devastating effects. Without a peer group, the teen feels she has nowhere to turn for help.

Many teens are hesitant to ask adults for help. They’re often embarrassed and ashamed about the rumors that are circling amongst their peers.

Being the victim of gossip often takes a toll a teen’s self-confidence. A teen’s grades may decline and other relationships – including family relationships – may begin to suffer.

A happy teen victimized by vicious gossip may become at an increased risk of depression. Unfortunately, the consequences can sometimes become deadly. In the most serious cases, some teens have completed suicide after suffering an enormous amount of shame and embarrassment stemming from vicious gossip.

Our digital age means that rumors and gossip can spread to hundreds – or even thousands – of people at once. A single Facebook post or just one tweet can get a rumor started, and social media can continue to spread the message.

How to Help Your Teen Deal With Gossip

  • Talk with her about the gossip – who’s gossiping about her and what they’re saying. Reassure her that she’s not a bad person – that gossiping is verbal bullying.
  • Get the names of the teens who are spreading gossip.
  • Schedule a meeting with the teacher or teachers of the teens doing the bullying. Have a frank discussion with the teachers and principal.
  • Teach your teen assertiveness skills so she can speak up for herself with confidence when confronted with rumors. Help your teen develop a script that she can use to respond to people who say rude things or who continue to spread the gossip.
  • Attend school functions and outings. This will help present a unified front to the gossipers or to other potential gossipers – that if anybody tries to mess with your teen – that they will have to answer to you.
  • Seek professional help if your teen experiences depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems. 

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