We all remember the warnings about the dangers of peer pressure we got as teens. Now, we are the parents, and it is our turn to help our kids make good choices when they are with friends who aren’t necessarily making the best decisions.

Peer Pressure Definition

According to Merriam Webster, peer pressure is “a feeling that one must do the same things as other people of one’s age and social group in order to be liked or respected by them.”

Peer pressure can be especially hard on teenagers because they place so much stock into what their friends think of them. For the most part, teens don’t want to be seen as “different” from their peers. Fitting in is more important during adolescence than at any other time in our lives. The notion that “everyone else is doing it” has a strong influence on the choices teenagers make.

Peer pressure can be both positive and negative. When a teen strives to be as good at sports as one of their friends, this is an example of positive peer pressure. But as we all know, peer pressure isn’t always positive. Teens can be pressured into risky behaviors by their peers all too easily.

Peer Pressure Statistics

Image CC by SA 3.0, by Nick Youngson, via Alpha Stock Images

There are some frightening numbers associated with peer pressure when we stop to take a look at the statistics regarding teens and potentially dangerous risk-taking behavior.

Drug and alcohol use

  • The Canadian Lung Association found that “my friends smoke” and “I thought it was cool” are two of primary reasons teens ages 12 to 17 start smoking.
  • The Canadian Lung Association also reports that 70 percent of teens who smoke have friends who smoke or began smoking due to peer pressure.
  • The Underage Drinking Research Initiative reports that two-thirds of 10th graders and two-fifths of 8th graders have tried alcohol.
  • The Monitoring the Future Survey reports that approximately 30 percent of 8th graders have used illicit drugs.

Here are a few findings regarding drug and alcohol use in relation to peer pressure.  It is important to understand that teens:

  • With friends who do drugs and drink alcohol are more likely to do the same.
  • Who do drugs and drink alcohol are more likely to convince their friends to do it too.
  • Who do drugs and drink alcohol are more likely to seek out other teens who do the same

Sex

  • A third of teenage boys feel pressure from their friends to have sex.
  • 23 percent of females feel pressure from their friends to have sex.
  • 44 percent of teens want more information on how to respond to the pressure to have sex and how to know when they are really ready to “go all the way.”
  • 46 percent of parents haven’t talked with their teens about how to handle the pressure to have sex.

Driving

  • 44 percent of teens drive better without friends in the car.
  • 56 percent said they talk on their cell phones while driving.
  • 13 percent said they text while driving.

Image CC by 2.0, by Gary Knight, via Flickr

Peer Pressure and Self Esteem

Self-esteem is “a combination of feeling loved and capable.” Psychologists know that the lower a teenager’s self-esteem, the more likely they are to succumb to peer pressure. When teens have low self-esteem, they are desperate to fit in, making them even more susceptible to pressure from their friends and they are more likely to “engage in high-risk behaviors, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illicit drugs.” But, on the other hand, when teens have higher self-esteem, they are better able to handle peer pressure and make good choices.

How to Talk With Your Kids About Peer Pressure

So, what can we as parents do to help our teens make good choices when facing peer pressure? Even though you may feel powerless, there are quite a few things you can do to help your teenager make good decisions when they are with their friends.

  • Keep the lines of communication open. Make sure your teen knows they can talk to you whenever they need to.
  • Teach your teen to avoid risky or dangerous situations.
  • Get to know your teenager’s friends.
  • Teach your teen to be assertive and to stand up for what they know is right.
  • Help your teen develop good self-esteem and build up their confidence.
  • Develop a backup plan if your teen feels like they are in a bad situation so they know that they have an out.
  • Encourage your teen to choose their friend’s wisely and avoid the “wrong crowd.”
  • Teach your teen how to say “no.”
  • Practice how to deal with uncomfortable situations before they arise.

Parenting a teenager is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Teens want to be like their friends and do what their friends are doing. This can lead them to take part in risky behaviors. But there are things a parent can do to help their teens make good choices when facing peer pressure. Most importantly, stay involved with your teen and their friends. Talk to your teen in an open and honest manner, making sure they know that they can always come to you. By supporting your teen and building their self-esteem, you can help your child make good decisions and be a role model to their friends at the same time.

Featured image CC by S-A 3.0, by Leifern, via Wikimedia Commons

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