There isn’t a kid alive who hasn’t this refrain from their parents, “If your friends told you to stick your head in a fire, would you?” This question is more often than not followed by the ubiquitous an eye roll all kids seem to be able to do better than adults, but the issue is one that almost child faces at some time; peer pressure. Younger people particularly can struggle with varying forms and degrees of peer pressure, whether that’s keeping up with school fashion trends or being subjected to initiations at Uni. As we all know, peer pressure can be a potent force, but an increased awareness has led to students, parents and educators being able to manage it more effectively.
It is important to remember, not all peer pressure is negative. Peer pressure can be force for good if it supports a person to move out of their comfort zone, affording them an opportunity at self-development or to discover new things.
There are also a lot of myths surrounding peer pressure too:
- Giving in to peer pressure will help someone fit in and feel better about themselves.
- Poor behaviour can be excused by peer pressure.
- Peer pressure doesn’t get really affect anyone until the teenage years.
- Bullying is normal, a fact of life and happens to everybody.
- Young people should learn on their own to work through peer pressure.
- If you don’t give in to peer pressure you can end wind up, isolated, lonely and outcast.
- Peer pressure only comes from peers and friends.
- There’s nothing anyone can do about it.
- Peer pressure only impacts on a person’s social life, it does not spread out to their education life.
Common Social Pressures
Peer pressure tends to intensify as children move up through school, so by the time they reach high school, they have been conditioned to ‘fit in’. While peer pressure can manifest itself in a multitude of ways, it’s often focused in a few common areas:
Alcohol or Drugs
Drugs and alcohol are easy to come by and teens often feel pressured to be ‘cool’ by experimenting with something banned, different or daring. Most young people don’t take drugs: 76% of young people aged between 11 and 15 say they have never taken drugs, although the likelihood of school-goers having ever taken drugs increases with age, from 11% with 11 yr. olds to 37% of 15 yr. olds. In England 18% of an estimated 580,000 pupils of secondary school age took at least one drug last year.
“Do this or you’re not part of our group.” Stealing often has an immediate impact on young people, with strong feelings of regret as soon as the adrenaline rush wears off. In a survey by Mori for the government’s Youth Justice Board, 25% of children 11 – 16 have committed a crime in the past year. All of those surveyed (who admitted committing crime) cited peer pressure boredom, and being drunk as the reasons for offending.
Recent research reveals that in England more than 4 in 10 teenage schoolgirls have experienced sexual coercion. Many were pressured into sex or other sexual activities but some cases extended to rape. The investigators also found that a high percentage of teenage boys viewed pornography regularly and 1 in 5 had exceptionally negative attitudes towards women and girls.
England also had the highest incidence of children exchanging sexual images and messages, with more than 44% of girls and just under 32% of boys said they had sent them to their boyfriend or girlfriend. Around 27% of those girls sent images or messages because they felt pressured by a partner into doing so.
In addition, teens who reported violence or abuse in their relationships were at least twice as likely to have sent a sexual text or image when compared with those who had not.
Most people don’t think of themselves as bullies. But the ‘persecutor of the playground’ is only one version of a bully. Bullying is often defined as, repeated behaviour intended to hurt someone either physically or emotionally and is usually aimed at people because of their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or appearance.
Bullying can take many forms such as, teasing, physical assault, threats, or name calling.
How to Deal with Peer Pressure
If you are being bullied at school, tell someone, a friend, a teacher, your parents, or someone you trust. It will not stop unless you do. Telling someone can be difficult, so if you don’t think you can tell someone in person, write it down, explaining how you feel and what’s happening to you.
- It’s OK to say no, especially when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to.
- Standing out is what makes you, you. You don’t always have to follow the crowd.
- Hang around with friends who share similar values and opinions to you. Mates have your back.
- Look to positive role models, people who aren’t afraid to say what they think, like and don’t like!
- Because you are unique and special, it’s OK to be your own best friend.