Teenagers and their parents have always had problems in the communication department. From the latest slang to the language of texting, it can be extremely difficult for a parent to keep up with their jargon. I sometimes wonder if teens develop their own language in order to keep the adults confused!
Teens of course are no different in their sabotage efforts on the computer. Just as adolescents have for centuries, today's teenagers tend to downplay their problems with others. The adults in their lives focus on the dangers of communicating online, and are sometimes oblivious to what's really going on.
In an Op-Ed in the New York Times, researchers Danah Boyd and Alice Marwick say that adults need to understand the language of teens before any anti-bullying efforts can ever succeed. But bullied teenagers make this difficult because "they cannot emotionally afford to identify as victims, and young people who bully rarely see themselves as perpetrators." Teens rarely identify with the adult terms of cyberbullying and relational aggression, because the psychological cost is too high. When Boyd and Marwick interviewed high school students, many said bullying was not a problem and was more of an issue in the lower grades.
Instead of admitting that bullying did exist, many of the teens (especially girls) said the conflicts that they had were just "drama." Boyd and Marwick concluded that the "drama" term could be a mask to cover more malicious tormenting. Adolescents use the term because it is empowering: having to admit to being a victim makes them feel out of control. The bullies can benefit from "drama" as well. It's easy to say that they were just clowning around than to admit to hurting someone's feelings.
The key component of any ant-bullying program is to make sure teens are educated about what true bullying consists of, and to build their self-confidence so they can feel a sense of empowerment.
So when you hear the words "drama queen" keep your ears perked. You'll want to make sure your loved one is not the Queen's fool.
Keep Kicking Those Bullies!
Source: Boyd, D. & Marwick,. (2011, September 13). Bullying As True Drama.The New York Times, p. A35.