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Understanding the Impact of Labels on Teens

By Katie Gorscak, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Earlier this week, launched two new videos and an animated GIF that address the issue of labels and how words can do harm. This project is a result of regular engagement and collaboration with one of the main audiences for teens.

Communication professionals pride themselves on coming up with big ideas and big messages. I am one of those people, but I also recognize when I may need a little help connecting with my audience. It’s been a while since I’ve been in a teen’s shoes, much less the fashionable variety worn by the youth of today.

My work with has afforded me a great opportunity to regularly work with teens and to gain a better understanding of what they go through on a day-to-day basis. In the past year, I have had the pleasure to work with teens from 4-H, listen to presentations by youth during bullying prevention workshops, and scour the internet in search for which types of messages resonate with teens.

One theme that has come up, time and time again, is that words can do harm and that labels don’t equal the person. We have previously explored this idea on the blog, affirming our position to not label children. But there’s more to this idea than just the research.

Every time that I have spoken with youth about bullying, the idea of labels has come up. Teens have expressed that they don’t want to be defined by the color of their skin, their interests, or by perceived stereotypes. This notion of labels being harmful, and how teens regular fight against stereotyping, is something that affect teens from all walks of life.

By regularly working with teens directly, I believe we can better address the issues that affect them every day. And if we can reach one teen and inspire them to rise above bullying, then we are well on our way to inspiring a new generation of teens.

If you need ideas to help talk to your teen about bullying or need help recognizing the signs of bullying visit or the Tumblr page.