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Who are "mean girls"? There are countless studies of bullying and the ill effects caused by bullies but the majority of those studies focus on boys as the aggressor.
There are few studies on teenage girls and and these social attacks. When girls bully they do it in an entirely different way. Most think of bullying as physical violence along with outward taunting but girls use tactics that are less visible and rarely physical, hence the term mean girls.
A group of girls that are bullying can be hard to distinguish from a group of girls innocently standing around and gossiping. Female teenagers behave differently in social groups than boys. As they get older, their peer interactions become much less physical and more mental.
Verbal bonding by sharing stories, dreams and hopes are common among teenage girls. Because females bond differently than males, it only makes sense the way they attack will be different also.
When parents and teachers talk about the obvious signs of bullying, small tussles, name calling, stealing or damaging another child’s property, they tend to ignore equivalent female behaviors which are quite different.
Parents often fail to treat 'mean girl' behavior although it can be just as vicious to their victims.
As a way of forcing control, girl bullies will often have other children gang up on their victim. Oftentimes a bully will encourage other children to pick on the victim while they sit back and watch.
They typically will form groups that pick and choose who can participate and who will be excluded. These small groups will form partnerships with other groups in an effort to jockey for popularity and power.
Mean girls are often viewed as cruel but using normal social behavior among teenage girls.
When there are physical altercations or violence, adults are quick to intervene and punish offenders. However when these attacks are less obvious and don't include physical injuries, even adults seem at a loss for the proper response.
For this reason, when teenage girls bully, many times it goes un-addressed. Because many adults don’t ordinarily label techniques employed by girls as bullying, a victim doesn’t know who to turn to for help.
Administrators and teachers still believe not all children can be friends and the social framework of the school system really encourages the development of peer groups and supports the concept of social hierarchies.
As a result many adults are slow to recognized actions of exclusion or alienation as anything sinister. These kinds of behaviors in many cases are dismissed as the unfortunate part of social groups.
While it is perfectly normal for boys and girls to form peer groups and bond closely with friends at the exemption of others, it turns into bullying any time those groups force power over another group or individual.
Enjoying friends is one thing; having friends that make others feel they’re not good enough to be included is quite another thing. Playing the popularity game in a way that causes inadequacy or fear in other people is really a common form of attack that 'mean girls' use.
Boys aren't the only bullies, teenage girls can bully as well. Getting singled out; made fun of, ignored, or perhaps alienated is a form of this.
Getting beaten up psychologically on a regular basis really does harm to the victim. It's about time the issue was tackled for what it is; a gender difference in intimidation, but mean girls are in fact bullies nevertheless. Keeping the lines of communication open is key here.