Everywhere you look, there are instances of bullying and cyberbullying brought about by mean girls, frenemies, and even fake friends. These so-called friends are frauds that use other people. They also tend to be one-dimensional and part of cliques. For this reason, it is important that kids know the difference between real friends and fake ones.
Not only is a friendship with a fake friend unhealthy, but being associated with a fake friend often results in being bullied. Consequently, it is important that your kids can identify the characteristics of fake friendships. Here is a list of eight characteristics to review with your kids. If their friends have these traits, then it is time to start building some new relationships.
Fake Friends Are Selfish
Typically, a fake friend will only contact your child when they want or need something. They rarely text or call for other reasons. Be sure your child knows that if a friend never calls or texts just to check-in, then that person is not really a friend at all. Most likely, that person is using your child in some way. It also is possible that these types of friends are just so self-absorbed that it never crosses their mind to reach out.
Fake Friends Thrive on Gossip and Drama
Stress to your kids that if someone enjoys gossiping about others, then they may be gossiping behind their backs as well. Gossiping and spreading rumors has serious consequences and is at the base of relational aggression and other types of bullying.1 Be sure your kids know that they should avoid friendships with people who thrive on gossip or drama. They should also avoid sharing personal details about their own lives. If they do, they run the risk of having it shared with other people.
Fake Friends Require Faking It
The hallmark of a healthy friendship is that kids can be themselves. If your children feel like they have to wear a mask or cannot be authentic, then that is the sign of fake friends. In other words, if your child has to talk or dress differently in order to fit in with these friends, then they are not true friends. They are probably part of a clique instead of a group of friends. Remember, fake friends often resort to peer pressure,2 which then leads to bullying, ostracizing and other forms of relational aggression. Stress to your kids that true friends like them for who they are.
Fake Friends Lie
Many times, fake friends do not feel good about who they are so they lie about their accomplishments, their grades, their clothes, their possessions – anything to make themselves look better. And if they lie about themselves, they will lie about your child too. Be sure your child knows that if they catch a friend in multiple lies, it is probably not a healthy friendship. It is hard to trust a liar and trust is essential in a healthy friendship.3
Fake Friends Are Critical
If your kids’ friends are constantly criticizing them, it is time to take a closer look at the friendships. Real friends are supportive and encouraging, but fake friends often criticize others or put them down. Girls, in particular, are guilty of being critical, especially about weight. They engage in fat-shaming or make fun of someone who is thin.4 This type of bullying is particularly dangerous because it can lead to eating disorders or even self-harming behavior. Help your child find friends who are encouraging instead.
Fake Friends Are Envious
If your kids’ friends have something insulting to say every time your kids succeed, then they are not real friends. Real friends celebrate one another’s accomplishments. Jealousy, while a normal feeling, can lead to bullying if it is not handled in a healthy way. If your child’s friends struggle with envy and are mean when your child experiences success, this is not a healthy friendship.5 Encourage your kids to find friends who are willing to celebrate with them.
Fake Friends Are Not Trustworthy
Usually, good friends will keep one another’s secrets. In other words, real friends do not tell the world who your child is crushing on. If your child’s friends are always spilling the beans, then it is time to start questioning whether that friend is a bully. Stress to your kids that trust is an essential ingredient in a healthy friendship. If they cannot trust their friends, then they are not truly friends.
Fake Friends Sell out Others
Real friends will stick up for one another, especially when faced with bullying. Meanwhile, a fake friend will either be a quiet bystander to the bullying or may even take part in the bullying. If your kids’ friends are regularly selling out them to save their own skin,5 your child should consider talking with their friend about being so passive or start looking for another group of friends.
A Word From Verywell
Overall, relationships with fake people do not result in healthy friendships. Fake friends are often not secure enough in who they are to be real and authentic. They struggle with selfishness, jealousy, and insecurities that keep them from being a true friend. Help your child realize this and move on.