My daughter is 11. She came home yesterday and told me that 2 girls at her school were in trouble because they had said mean things to each other over the internet. These girls had been best friends and now they hated each other. Both the girls were nice, she said, but they both wanted to be the most popular. Talk about Queen Bee and the Wannabee!
Now there, I thought, are the ingredients for the perfect storm - a potential fire-bomb!
More and more these days we see tweens exhibiting the type of behaviour we more commonly associate with teens . Tween boys are usually more overt and physically aggressive, whereas girls are controlling — in more covert ways. Both can exhibit mean tween behavior but girls are more likely to express it on social media; Facebook, Instagram, Formspring, and text to name a few. In previous articles I have pleaded with parents to get Under 13s off Facebook, This Picture is meant to Shock! and Facebook for Under 13s? Your thoughts? It’s so important to take control of this and say ‘No’ while you still can. The written word can be a deadly weapon in the hands of the unsupervised. This is partly why Under 13s are banned from these sites. You need to set the boundaries.
It is at this age that they start to explore their ability to use their social power. They are focused on using it and not on its effect. They become aware of social heirarchy and begin to manipulate friendships to elevate their own social position and receive peer acceptance. Relational aggression, as it is known, can become a form of emotional bullying, consisting of lies, gossip, reputation-trashing and social exclusion. It is an attempt at psychological and social control.
They are learning and it our role to teach them. They will make mistakes. They will do the wrong thing. We need to be there watching and talking to them about it.
Modeling is your best weapon against relational aggression. Talk to your children about human behaviour – the newspapers are full of it. Read books about these topics together, ‘Queen Bees and Wannabees’ by Rosalind Wiseman is a good start. Show empathy, compassion and understanding even of the girls who are doing the wrong thing. Be careful of what you say. If you gossip, and say mean things when you are with your girlfriends, in the hearing of your child you can expect the same behavior from your tween.