Understanding Your Teen’s Modern-Day High School Drama

Understanding Your Teen’s Modern-Day High School Drama

Even as young as grade school, school and friendships can be fraught with drama for guys and girls alike. The drama seems to escalate with changing hormones as teens enter high school. High schoolers are trying to find their own identities and discover their own path in life. Relationships ebb and flow, and sometimes seem to change on a daily basis. Teens might connect for various reasons, such as a shared activity, sport or class.

When the shared interest ends, the friendship fizzles. For example, teens who are in a certain sport or club or in band throughout high school tend to form friendships around that activity. A mobile society also affects teen relationships, even if they can stay connected via technology. By understanding your teen’s modern-day high school drama, you can help him or her navigate through this difficult season.

Why Teens Become Mean

According to studies, teens act in mean ways if their basic needs aren’t met. One researcher labels these the ABCs and ME. The acronym stands for acceptance, belonging, control and a meaningful existence. If a teen is missing one or more of these elements, he or she might act out. By keeping others out of their clique, a young person might feel a sense of control, especially if he or she feels that other areas of his or her life are out of control. They will use various methods, usually mean tactics, to help them “rise to the top.” They usually rely on belittling others to make themselves look better.

Bullying and Cyber Bullying

When drama becomes more serious, teens might transition beyond mean behavior into bullying. Bullying in previous generations had the feel of Biff Tannen and George McFly in “Back to the Future,” when Biff made George do his homework and taped silly signs to his back. However, modern-day bullying is filled with more subtle attacks, especially among girls. These might include rumors, gossip, hurtful comments or exclusion from a party.

In some cases, bullying moves beyond personal and face-to-face encounters to cyber bullying, which includes hiding behind a computer screen where the person doesn’t even know who’s behind the attacks. For example, if someone posts a defamatory comment or even a photo, your child might not even know it until the content has gone viral.

Cyber bullying can also include setting up fake accounts and then posting rude comments or sending hurtful messages to others so that it seems as if the posts originate from the victim. They might make lewd comments on the victim’s social media wall, embarrassing and shaming the victim. With the lightning speed of technology, these comments have the potential to reach thousands of people as opposed to just a handful in cases of in-person bullying.

While the problems might resolve themselves, in other cases, your teen will need to confront the issue head on. If he or she can’t handle it or on their own, they might need an adult to intervene. Social media sites have ways to formally report abuse and list the reason for the report. Your teen can also adjust their privacy settings and block any offenders as well. While cyberbullies might think that they can avoid responsibility by hiding behind a computer screen, technology tracks their movements, leaving a record of their actions. As such, the comments can be traced to the offenders. In extreme cases, parents might need to even involve law enforcement, depending on the content of the material.

Helping Your Teen Deal with Drama

While you need to let your child sort out some of his or her own issues, you can point them in the right direction by taking the following steps.

  • Encourage him or her to depend on themselves instead of looking to others to validate them. While some of this comes with maturity, you can help your child learn to develop their own self-esteem.
  • Instill confidence in your teen. Encourage him or her to find activities that will build strength and character. “Karate Kid,” another classic movie about a teen who was bullied and who used karate to overcome his challenges, provides a great example of confronting adversity in a constructive way. Involvement in sports, clubs, youth groups and similar activities help teens find what interests them.
  • Encourage him or her to expand their horizons when it comes to friendships instead of isolating and spending time with just one or two friends. By reaching out to others, he or she will develop well-rounded relationships.
  • Discuss proper boundaries and interaction with others.
  • Help your child evaluate his or her own behavior and how that might contribute to drama. He or she needs to accept responsibility for their own behavior without blaming others.
  • Allow him or her to spread their wings, even if they fall sometimes.
  • Advise your teen that he or she should not seek revenge, which can backfire, causing more problems for the victims.
  • Encourage your child to pull together a group of friends who will stand with your teen. He or she will find safety in numbers.
  • Remind your teen that the behavior of bullies says much more about them then it does about your child. They are the ones who are in the wrong.
  • If your input and counsel doesn’t help, watch for signs of depression or other poor coping skills, such as an eating disorder or addictive behavior.
  • Encourage your child to ask for help. Some situations go beyond a teen’s ability to deal with on their own. A parent, teacher, guidance counselor, youth leader or even a friend might help your teen find a solution.
  • If the situation seems to be spiraling out of control, seek professional help sooner than later if you suspect your teen isn’t coping.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Ask open-ended questions so that your child needs to think before responding.

No matter what kind of drama your teen might deal with now, remember that it is only temporary. Help him or her transition past this time in their lives and into a successful future by instilling successful social skills so that they can overcome these challenging issues.


  1. […] a teen is tough. You have to deal with body changes, fledgling relationships, peer pressure, high-school drama and other seemingly endless issues. Add social media to the mix and you begin to understand why so […]

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