Friends and classmates play a crucial role in every child’s life, especially during the adolescent and teenage years. They can influence decisions, beliefs, and even actions in teenagers. Peer pressure in teens can have positive as well as negative impacts. As we read further in this article, we will discover more about peer pressure, what are the types and effects of peer pressure, and also know about some of the most useful tips for parents of teens to help them deal with peer pressure.
What is Peer Pressure?
People who are our age, such as friends or classmates, are called peers. When peers try to get us to act a specific way, or try to get us to do something, it is known as peer pressure. Teenagers might want to be like their peers, even if they are not pressuring them, and it is natural to want to fit in. As long as it feels right for you, it is okay to like what your classmates and friends like, or do what they do. However, above all, you should never forget to be yourself, even if it means being different from your peers.
Peer Pressure and Teens: The Role of Neurobiology
Let us learn about a study that illustrates how peer pressure works.(1) In the study, two-year-old children who observed other children perform a certain action were likely to mimic it. When these same children saw only one other child performing a specific action, they were less likely to mimic it. In other words, it can be said that even kids tend to go with the flow and do what other kids of their age do.
The brain develops during adolescence and teenagers are especially prone to giving in to teen peer pressure. At this age, specific portions of the brain that regulate decision-making abilities, impulsivity, and self-control are not yet mature. This explains why teenagers are so vulnerable to social pressure from their peers.
However, when an adult face peer pressure, they might be able to know the harm it might cause in the future. Teenagers, on the other hand, are less able to predict consequences and regulate impulses because of their neurobiology.
When is Peer Pressure Good?
We cannot always label peer pressure as something harmful. This is because, some peer pressure can also be helpful, such as the ones that come from being around motivated students. Such a kind of peer pressure can help achieve better grades and do well in life. Moreover, competitive peer pressure from athletics can also improve athletic performance. So, some peer pressure can have a positive impact on teenagers.
Types of Peer Pressure
Here are some of the major types of peer pressure.
Spoken Peer Pressure: When a teen puts social pressure on a peer verbally or by asking or pushing them to engage in a specific kind of behavior, it is known as spoken peer pressure.
Unspoken Peer Pressure: Acting in a particular way that makes others feel pressured to copy the behavior, is known as unspoken peer pressure.
Direct Peer Pressure: Direct peer pressure can be spoken or unspoken peer pressure that is inviting or pushing someone to engage in a particular behavior or choice.
Indirect Peer Pressure: Teenagers exert indirect peer pressure by behaving in specific ways. They might not be directly pressuring others to make a choice, however, they behave in a specific manner and others begin following them as a role model.
Positive Peer Pressure: Positive peer pressure is the peer spoken or unspoken peer pressure that supports other’s emotional and mental health by encouraging healthy behaviors or choices. For instance, teens can positively influence each other by being role models for behaviors like practicing self-care, being athletic, studying hard to score good marks, and so on.
Negative Peer Pressure: Influence that pushes teens in a negative direction that can lead them to prefer unsafe actions or unhealthy choices, is known as negative peer pressure. Some examples of negative peer pressure include exerting social pressure to drink alcohol, smoke, try drugs, or bunk school.
What are the Negative Effects Of Peer Pressure?
Negative effects of peer pressure include:
- It can encourage teens to participate in negative behaviors and habits, such as skipping classes, cheating, bullying, stealing, and using drugs and alcohol.
- Negative peer pressure can also affect teens’ mental health. It can decrease their self-confidence and lead to poor academic performance, isolation from family and friends, or an increasing risk of anxiety and depression. If left untreated, this can eventually lead to teens having suicidal thoughts and engaging in self-harming activities
What are the Effects of Social Media on Peer Pressure?
Social media is constantly available and everyone, including teens and children, uses it endlessly. This means social media has great potential to amplify feelings of peer pressure. Although social media can have positive and negative impacts, most of the time it negatively impacts teens.
Social media has amplified the impact of teen peer pressure.(2) Teenagers report experiencing peer pressure to look a particular way when seeing how their friends look on various social media sites. According to a Pew Research Center report on the negative effects of social media on teens, it has been mentioned that 26% of teenagers say that these social media sites make them feel worse about their lives.(3)
Research also shows that teen peer pressure online contributes to alcohol and drug use. A study published in 2023 on Drug and Alcohol Review showed teenagers were more likely to drink alcohol and use marijuana if their friends posted about it on Snapchat or Instagram.(4)
Top 8 Useful Tips to Deal With Peer Pressure
Given the effects that teen peer pressure can have negative impacts on teens, parents should have open communication with their children and help them prepare for situations of negative peer pressure. Below are some useful tips to deal with peer pressure in teens.
Set Limits and Say “No”
Teens usually do not like saying “no” to peers. Most of them think that doing so could harm their relationship. As parents and elders, we should set limits for our teens and help them understand that there are times when saying “no” is the right thing for them.
Some scary times when teens should say “no” could be when peer pressure them to take illegal drugs or consume alcohol. If your teen feels uncomfortable in such situations and wants to leave the place, help them gain that confidence to say, “No” and leave the place right away.
According to the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the best way parents should help their teens resist peer pressure is to engage in role-playing activities with them.(5) Parents can pretend to be their peers who are forcing them to use drugs, and then ask the teens to come up with their responses to such peer pressures.
Look for Positive Peer ‘Partners”
Peer pressure is not always negative. Sometimes classmates also encourage and build confidence in children. Being parents, we should try our best to help our teens find positive peer partners who can keep them motivated to do the correct things.
Encourage Independence in Them
One of the best things parents of teens can do is encourage them to find their path and to make choices of their own, even if it does not make them famous. Teens with low self-esteem are more likely to give in to peer pressure. Thus, they should be encouraged to be independent and also build resilience.
Teach Teens to Identify and Evaluate Goals
Teach your teens to identify and evaluate goals. Also, ask them if their current behavior of peers will help or hamper their chances of making those goals happen. Try to show them the connection between their current behavior, the peer pressure, and their long-term goals.
Develop Decision-Making Skills When it Comes to Peer Pressure
Teens should make their day-by-day decisions for themselves. The only way teenagers can truly develop decision-making skills is by trying to practice putting them into action. As they make decisions themselves, they start feeling good about their choices and might be more likely to choose to do the correct thing.
Talk to Them if They Feel Pressured
Sometimes peer pressure could be too much for teens to handle. Let your teens know that they do not have to deal with it alone. Remind them that you are always there for them. Talk to them when they feel stressed or worried about peer pressure and guide them in the right way. You can also take them to counselors and coaches if required.
Teach Coping Strategies to Teens
It is advisable to teach teens and adolescents various coping strategies. This would help them cope with their peer pressure. Listening to their instincts, talking through issues, focusing on their strengths, and learning relaxation exercises are some examples of various coping strategies for teens that can help manage stress. These strategies can also help our teens make healthier choices during challenging situations that usually come with peer pressure.
Teach Them It’s Okay to Make Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes at some point or the other. Make your teenagers know that it is okay for them to make mistakes. If you find them doing something wrong, do not just neglect them or be excessively rude to them, rather, be with them, talk to them, and make them believe that you are still with them. Allow them to discover their mistakes, and also understand that they should not repeat the same. In this entire process, make sure to remain with them as their support.
Being there for our teens when they are dealing with the challenges of peer pressure, can make a huge difference. Communicate and empower them to make the right decisions when they face peer pressure. Let them understand the positive and negative effects of peer pressure. Allow them to ignore the negative peer pressure and adopt the positive peer pressure to achieve success.