Mean Girls Even Meaner

March 31, 2006

I hate to sound like an advertisement for Brain, Child, but it’s the only parenting magazine that doesn’t remind me of Family Circle and put me to sleep. Here is one last article I want to highlight from the spring edition: “Mean Girls: The Next Generation.”

As the nerdy girl in junior high school — I was so grateful to move from Miami to New Hampshire to escape the reputation! — I was way into this feature story about the new face of female bullying and what parents can do to help their unpopular daughters.

Thanks to blogs, cell phones and instant-messaging, bullies — or the “Queen Bee” and her minions — now have new tools to taunt other girls and spread gossip. I would hate to be on the receiving end of this:

The girl at the top — the “Queen Bee” in (Rosalind) Wiseman’s terms — usually exerts her power by choosing someone to freeze out. Everyone who wants to stay in the good graces of the queen complies. The torture can be subtle and ingenious: three-way phone calls in which the victim is lured into dissing another girl who is listening in; whispering campaigns designed to ruin the victim’s reputation; a mass exodus from the lunch table where she used to be welcome.

Some girls in the article reported receiving threatening instant messages or being gossiped about on a blog. As experts noted, gossip spreads like wild fire on a blog, making it unbearable for some girls to go to school.

Fortunately, there are a myriad of books, including Wiseman’s, websites and school administrators who are combatting school bullying. Parents can help their daughters by telling them of their own experiences being taunted on the school yard.

But what this article doesn’t make clear is whether parents should talk to their daughters’ teachers or confront the bully’s parents. One parent said “no way,” that it would only make the bully more aggressive. Another parent reported success with holding a lunch and inviting the bully and her mother. What do you think? Have you dealt with a bully at your child’s school?