Did you know that we spend, on average, 52 minutes each day gossiping about others? That’s according to a study by the University of California, USA, on the dynamics of this universal activity. The results, which were reported in Science Daily earlier this year, also revealed that while everyone talks about others, younger people are far more likely to engage in negative gossip – and this, says clinical psychologist Sumari van Rooyen, can start as early as the age of three!
‘What’s important to remember about gossiping is that it’s a normal activity. It happens on every playground and in every classroom, which is why every parent can relate to it,’ she says.
‘Mary’s my friend; Jane is too ugly.’ ‘Mikey poos in his pants – he stinks.’ ‘Nicky failed the maths test because she’s so stupid.’ This type of talk, Sumari explains, is the start of gossiping and forms part of every child’s vocabulary. And although adults often find the things kids say to and about each other cruel, you need to understand that what they’re doing is making sense of relationships by playing with others, pushing boundaries and testing limits.
‘Knowing how to gossip is actually a very important developmental phase for your child, which is why special navigation and guidance from you as a parent are so essential,’ says Sumari.
The art of positive gossip