Understanding the Impact of Rumors and Gossip

two teens gossiping

Drama. It happens so frequently during the teenage years, that some people have come to accept it as a normal part of teenage life. But when that drama involves toxic friendships, slut-shaming, and spreading rumors, that is anything but normal. In fact, for those who are impacted, gossip can be downright painful and almost impossible to ignore – especially if social media is being used to spread it.

Consequently, kids who are being gossiped about are negatively impacted. For instance, gossip and rumors can destroy a person’s self-confidence and affect their self-esteem. It also can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, anxiety, and a host of other issues.

Gossip and rumors can alienate friends, ruin reputations, and even lead to ostracizing behavior and other forms of relational aggression.

To help your child deal effectively with gossip and rumors, it’s important to understand the difference between the two. It also helps to understand why kids engage in gossiping and rumor spreading.

Rumors vs. Gossip

Rumors are pieces of information or a story that has not been verified. What this means, is that the person telling the story does not know for certain if it is true or not. Most of the time, people who spread rumors do not bother to determine if there is any truth to what they are saying. 

Typically, rumors are spread from person to person and can change slightly each time they are told. As a result, they can become exaggerated and altered over time.

Rumors can involve just about any topic and often run the gamut. For instance, at school, there could be rumors about casting calls in the theater department, about how the final will be handled in history class, or that the head cheerleader is secretly dating a member of the chess club.

Gossip is slightly different from a rumor. Usually, gossip involves a juicy detail of some sort, which means the information is shocking or personal. What’s more, gossip is usually spread behind a person’s back and can be very hurtful.

Gossip usually involves love, relationships, sex, and other issues that people usually do not talk about publicly. Additionally, gossip almost always causes pain and humiliation for the person it is about. People share gossip without any thought of how it might impact the person it is about.

  • Unverified pieces of information

  • Often involves speculation

  • Unknown if information is true

  • May change slightly as retold

  • Information usually not harmful to another person

  • Juicy or scandalous story

  • Hurtful for another person

  • Unknown if information is true

  • Usually involves things not discussed publicly

  • May humiliate the person it's about


There are a variety of reasons why kids will spread rumors or engage in gossip. But most kids gossip or spread rumors to fit in with their friends, as a way to feel special or to impress others. Here’s a closer look at the reasons why kids gossip.

To Feel Better

When people feel bad about themselves, they sometimes will target other people to try to make themselves feel better. As a result, they talk about others as a way to deflect attention from themselves. 

To Feel Accepted

If everyone else in their circle of friends is gossiping or spreading rumors, kids feel like they have to do the same thing in order to be accepted. Many times peer pressure will play a factor in spreading rumors or gossiping.

To Get Attention

When teens know a secret that nobody else knows, or they are the first person in the group to hear a rumor, it makes them the center of attention. As a result, kids that are trying to fit in or climb the social ladder might use gossip and rumors as a tool to gain popularity.

To Gain Power

Some teens want to be in control and at the top of the social ladder. When kids are at the top of the social ladder or are determined to climb higher, they sometimes accomplish that by diminishing the status of another person. Spreading rumors or gossiping is one of the primary ways people, especially mean girls, jockey for social status.

To Get Revenge

When teens are envious of another person’s looks, popularity, or money, they might use gossip and rumors to hurt that person. They also tend to use gossip and rumors to get back at someone who they feel deserves to be hurt. Making up a rumor or spreading gossip sometimes satisfies their need for revenge.

To Relieve Boredom

Research indicates that boredom is often the number one reason why teens spread rumors. These teens are bored with their lives because there is no drama. As a result, they resort to rumors and gossip to spice things up and make life more exciting.

A Word from Verywell

When teens are being gossiped about or if someone is spreading rumors, there are a number of things that they can do to cope with it. For instance, your teen could stop dwelling on what other people are saying or go directly to the source and confront the issue. The key is to find a way to address the gossiping and rumor spreading that is comfortable for your child. 

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Martinescu E, Janssen O, Nijstad BA. Self-Evaluative and Other-Directed Emotional and Behavioral Responses to Gossip About the Self. Front Psychol. 2018;9:2603.  doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02603

  2. Levesque RJR (Editor). Encyclopedia of Adolescence. Springer. 2011.

  3. TeensHealth from Nemours. Someone is spreading rumors about me. what can I do?.

  4. Laugeson EA. The PEERS® Curriculum for School Based Professionals: Social Skills Training for Adolescents With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Routledge. 2014.

  5. Franklin L. Gender (Macmillan Insights in Psychology series). Red Globe Press. 2014.

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.