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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.

Mean Girls Go Viral continued...

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.

How to Deal With Mean Girls

If you're being harassed at school, don't try to handle the problem by yourself. "The best thing they can do is access support," Nixon says. Tell a friend, your parents, or a school guidance counselor. Let them help you deal with the mean girls.

The worst thing you can do is ignore the problem or try to get revenge. In Nixon's survey, these tactics often backfired.

Try not to let the mean girls get to you. Standing up for yourself can show bullies that you're confident and not easily intimidated.

If you can get a few of your friends to stand up against the mean girls with you, you're less likely to be singled out. "There's power in numbers, Dellasega says. "Nobody's going to go after a large group of people."

The problem is, bystanders to mean girl bullying are often too afraid to speak up. "Lots of times they stand or watch, and they might even laugh or agree with the bully because they're afraid they're going to be next," Dellasega says.

If you're worried that you'll get singled out for speaking out, know that you don't have to put yourself at much risk to really help someone who's struggling, Nixon says. All you have to do is be there for the girl who's being harassed. Talk to her at school. Call her at home.

Learning to Love Yourself

If you are being harassed or bullied by mean girls, remember that it isn't your fault. You aren't the problem -- they are.

It took a lot of therapy for Thomas to recognize that she wasn't the person the mean girls had made her out to be. "I was basing my reality off of everybody else," she says. Once she got treatment, "I learned who I really am. I am so much more than all those people said I was."

Now a freshman in college, Thomas has a newfound self-confidence. "I would walk into a room of girls and want to cry and hide. Now I feel like I'm pretty and beautiful, because I am. I respect myself."

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Reviewed on November 22, 2010

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