Peer pressure is a term that’s thrown around all of the time. Teachers and parents warn you to “watch out” and “just say no”. They see peer pressure as a very dangerous teen activity, but for the most part, they are wrong. Teens may make fun of this discussion, but deep down you know that peer pressure is a real issue. Not only are you often pressured by friends to do things, but you pressure other people as well. So what’s the deal with teen peer pressure?
A peer is someone at your level, for teens this usually means someone your own age.
Pressure is when someone tries to persuade you or get you to do something. It’s also the feeling you get when someone is trying to get you to do something.
Peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing! As a matter of fact, it’s usually a good thing. Peers can pressure you to join a club or team, to do an after-school activity or pressure you to NOT try something you don’t want to do - like alcohol, drugs or sex.
In a recent poll conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, teen girls reported that 58 percent of teens felt that peers have a “very positive” or “somewhat positive” effect on teen girls decisions about sexual intercourse.
During the teenage years, it’s normal for a teen to pull away from their family and gain some independence. As a teen this can be exciting and a little scary. Parents are terrified of this. When you are a teen, you will stop looking to your family for support and reinforcement of your decisions and you will want your friends to think what you do is “cool”.
As mentioned, this separation between parents and children is frightening for parents because they feel like they are losing control over your lives and…....THEY ARE!
What you need to do, is be a responsible teen and teach your parent that they can trust you. If you can successfully do this, then your parents won’t be as threatened and they will give you more space. It’s amazing how this works. Unfortunately, when teens act-out parents get mad and are more strict and institute more rules. Realize this too!
Being responsible doesn’t mean you have to be boring and not cool. A key to being responsible is being honest with your parents. It’s normal to take risks as a teen - it’s part of defining your identity. What you want to do is to take risks that are safe. Sounds silly, but it’s true. There’s nothing cool or fun about being addicted to drugs, having a baby when you’re a teen, killing someone in a drunk driving accident or killing yourself for a stupid risk.
Set your levels for experimentation and seek out friends who think like you do. Girls are pretty good at doing this. In general, for girls, if you hang-out with a group of girls who are mostly low-risk (meaning that they don’t drink, do drugs or have sex) the?n you are less likely to engage in those high-risk activities. Even if there are a few girls in your group that would be called “high-risk”, the effect of the group is larger than that of the individual and you’re still pretty unlikely to take a risk. Boys are a bit more “risky” by nature, no matter what their friends are doing. So if you’re a guy - be aware of the risks involved in what you are doing.
As far as “just say NO” goes - try to put yourself in a situation where saying yes is a good thing, like joining a team, rather than something that is unsafe and unhealthy!