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Teen Girls' Health

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Mean Girls: How to Deal With Them

Coping tips for handling mean girls' nastiness in person, behind your back, and online.

Who Are the Mean Girls' Targets?

The stereotype of the mean girls' target is someone who looks or acts different.

"It could be the girl who is overweight. It could be the girl who is not as attractive," Dellasega says. Another target might be someone who makes a mistake -- like saying "hi" to the popular girl's boyfriend, she says.

Often, though, the nastiness is focused on someone who is just minding her own business.

Thomas didn't say or do anything to provoke the girls at her school. She didn't gossip about them or try to steal their boyfriends.

"The majority of victims are not provocative victims... that is, they are not those annoying kids who continually provoke others," Nixon says. "The majority of victims, instead, are what we call 'passive victims.'" Whether they're provocative or passive, a lot of kids are the victims of mean girls.

Nixon and guidance counselor Stan Davis interviewed about 13,000 kids in grades 5-12 for Youth Voice, a research project that's studying ways to help kids deal with meanness and bullying. They found that about half the kids were being harassed at least once a month.

Mean Girls Go Viral

School isn't the only place where mean girls operate. Today they have a new forum for humiliating their victims: cyberspace.

When Thomas was in middle school, a girl in her class created a MySpace page with Thomas' name and face on it. The girl then sent out nasty messages to some of their other classmates, pretending those messages were coming from Thomas.

In high school, mean girls posted ugly pictures on Thomas' Facebook page. They wrote, "You do drugs" and "anorexic" on her Facebook wall.

Being insulted or harassed at school is much different than being insulted or harassed online. At school, maybe a couple of other people could find out what happened. When something embarrassing is posted on your Facebook or Myspace page, hundreds or even thousands of people might see it.

The Internet also gives mean girls an easy way to hide. "We found that kids tend to think that because they're behind a screen they're not responsible -- that they can say whatever they want," Nixon says.

"What kids need to understand is that whenever they are on the screen, they leave a fingerprint." Nasty or humiliating comments posted today can stay online for years -- even after they're deleted.

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