Few people know that the word gossip originated from godsibb the old English term for gossip. What almost everyone knows, especially teens, is that gossip can ruin reputations and lead to conflict, physical fights, and serious self-doubt.
Just so that we are all on the same page, I will define gossip as I have experienced it. It is a form of communication about the personal and private issues of others that often spreads misinformation. We have all been in a situation when conversation suddenly stops when we enter a room. "Yikes, we think, what are they saying about me?"
Gossip seems to become especially popular during the middle and high school years. Tweens and teens are struggling to be part of the "in crowd" in their pursuit of social acceptance. Gossip often functions as a way of excluding kids. That explains why gossip is so contagious. If you join in and talk about a peer then the teen feels that at least for now she is not the one being both talked about and possibly excluded. Emphasis, here, is on the phrase"for now." Eventually, almost everyone gets a turn at being the target of gossip. Teens may not be aware of the impact of gossip on others until they experience it directly. Because gossip can have so many harmful consequences, I recommend that parents get involved as much as possible in teaching their pre-teens and teens about the pitfalls associated with gossiping.
I offer the following suggestions:
1. If you hear your teen gossip - identify and point it out.
2. Ask her how she would feel if being spoken about in that way.
3. Suggest a nicer and kinder topic.
4. Be a good role model. This means stopping yourself when you begin to get caught up in gossip. We are aware that this is sometimes hard to do.
5. If your teen is the target of gossip- help him figure out how to deal with it. Telling the teen to simply ignore it is not the best advice. We all know that gossip is hard to ignore.
6. Encourage your teens to protect their reputations to make it less likely that they will be the target of gossip and
7. Always act more interested in friendly topics rather than gossip.
Good luck with this very tricky topic!