Editor’s note: Dr. Katie Hurley, author of “No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident and Compassionate Girls,” is the senior clinical adviser of The Jed Foundation. She specializes in work with tweens, teens and young adults.
A high school senior recounted the past few weeks to me, trying to find the point where everything went wrong.
She read through old text messages and dissected all her social media posts as well as those from her old friend group. If she could just find a way to convince them to take her back, she thought, she might save her senior year from ruin.
The friend group breakup was swift and played out both at a party and on social media.
Her crime? Showing up late to a birthday party because she went out with friends from a previous school first without telling anyone. She double-booked and got caught on Instagram Stories. Members of the group told her to leave the party, humiliated her and blocked her number. Then they got on Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. In short, she was canceled.
Relational aggression among teens isn’t anything new, but it can be especially hideous when it plays out alongside cyberbullying. In some cases, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the two subtypes of bullying.
Relational aggression includes attempts to damage the reputation of another person or existing relationships and can involve gossip, rumors, manipulation, social isolation, public humiliation, threats of harm, hateful commentary and even hateful written content.
One in five students report bullying, with a higher percentage of male-identifying students reporting physical bullying (6% versus 4%