Let’s assume that you are a 14 to 17-year-old teen, and last week you were out with your friends on a beach or some restaurant to spend some leisure time. While waiting for an order to serve, one of your friends starts a topic that fascinates you. Let’s see a movie or a game. However, that friend starts saying some negative comments about that movie/game and, interestingly, all others, including you, agree with your friend. Although inwardly, you know that it is a game you happen to enjoy quite a lot but, apparently, not wanting to debate the issue, you go along with the crowd. The social stress which you just experienced is commonly referred to as peer pressure or peer influence.
Every day, people of different ages experienced and become a victim of peer pressure. The pressure or influence can be a reason for a victim friend to adopt a particular type of behaviour, dress, or attitude to be accepted as part of a social (peer) group. For teenagers, they have likely experienced the effect of peer influence in several different areas, ranging from the clothes you wear to the music they listen to. However, peer pressure is not necessarily a bad thing. We are all influenced by our peers, both negatively and positively, at any age.
School and other leisure activities allow teens to spend more time with their friends than with their families. As they grow up and become more independent, their friends naturally start playing a more significant role in their lives. Particularly in emotional situations, peer influence can be hard to resist. As a result of this peer pressure, the victimise teen may feel compelled to do something he/she uncomfortable with.
When Might Positive Peer Pressure Happen?
When I feel:
- a sense of belonging and support of my friends
- increased self-confidence with friends
- to have positive hobbies and interests with my friends
- reinforced to positive habits and attitudes.
When Might Negative Peer Pressure Happen?
When I feel:
- the pressure to use alcohol, cigarettes or drugs from my friends
- the pressure to engage in risk-taking behaviours with my friends
- distracted from schoolwork due to friendship goals
- distance between family and existing friends
- drastic changes in behaviour and attitudes in myself.
How to Avoid Negative Peer Pressure in School and Daily Life
- Spend time with those who resist peer pressure: You’ll learn who they are quick; they’re the ones who stand up for themselves even in the face of bullying. These are the people you want in your corner.
- Learn how to be assertive: Learn to say “No” in a way that’s calm and convincing.
- Ask for help if necessary: If you’re faced with relentless bullying, don’t simply wait for it to go away. Reach out to a teacher, mentor, parent or counsellor to get some help with the problem.
- Choose friends carefully: Remember, a true friend won’t push you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. And when it comes to resisting negative pressures, it helps to have a buddy. Agree that you’ll have each other’s backs on certain things, such as not drinking too much.
- Use the delay tactic: Rather than answer immediately, say you’re going to think something over first. That time buffer makes your eventual “no” less of a surprise.
- Think ahead: If you know there will be drugs or alcohol at a party, decide how you will handle it or make other plans.
- Provide your positive pressure: Rather than simply fighting against negative pressure, focus on providing a positive alternative. For instance, counter a fraternity party invitation with a proposal to see a movie instead.
- It’s okay to be alone: Sometimes, we give in to peer pressure to avoid feeling lonely. But spending time with yourself is a way to rejuvenate and reinforce your own priorities.
Remember, if you encounter peer pressure, don’t hold it back in your chest – it will be triggered you more intensely. Simply talk to your first available person of trust (mentor/parent/unbiased friend). Make a plan, and don’t demoralise yourself. The very first thing that can be affected by peer pressure is your decision-making sense. Once you are out of this sense, your confidence will be ruined, and you find yourself in a pitch-black situation. You will feel no one will understand you, which is simply not the case. Keep that in your mind that your most crucial peer in this whole world is – You. No friend is as important as yourself.