Helping Kids Understand the Difference between Tattling vs. Reporting

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There’s a difference between tattling and reporting. When kids understand the difference, they are more likely to report unsafe situations and real trouble.

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Definitions: Snitching & Tattling vs. Reporting

Snitching or Tattling: Telling on someone to get that person in trouble.

Reporting: Telling a trusted adult to get help. Focused on keeping yourself and others safe.

The Difference Between Tattling & Reporting

In early elementary school, snitching or tattling is common as kids learn to navigate rules and social dynamics. In these situations, the “snitcher” is usually trying to get someone in trouble, control another, or avoid blame. Often, no one is in danger of being physically hurt, and the situation could be solved without adult intervention with some conflict resolution skills.

By middle school, snitching has become socially unacceptable. Because of this stigma, older students may be afraid to report real trouble. Fear of being seen as a snitch peaks just as dangerous and inappropriate behaviors (bullying, sexual harassment, and threats of violence) are on the rise.

When Kids Understand the Difference, Schools are Safer

When kids understand the difference between snitching and reporting it helps them feel safe to report. This requires regular discussions at home and at school about what types of situations need to be reported. It’s also important to have a safe, confidential way for students to share, like This service allows students, families, and community members to report concerns or threats anonymously.

In today’s world, all of us need to look out for each other. These efforts go a long way in helping our kids feel safe as well.

This post originally appeared on

Jessica Speer is the author of BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? Girls Guide to Happy Friendships. Combining humor, the voices of kids, and research-based explanations, Jessica unpacks topics in ways that connect with tweens and teens. She’s the mother of two and has a Master’s Degree in Social Sciences.    


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