Peer pressure is a topic of significant concern. Whilst many of us are familiar with the term, its depictions in the media are not always accurate. Teens frequently do not apply considerable force to coerce others into action. It is often more subtle. Peer pressure occurs whenever someone feels the need to act a certain way or do things they do not want to do.
Here at Lawson Legal, we see many young people who are facing severe consequences because peers pressured them into an activity. While we perform our job as criminal attorneys diligently and strive for the best possible outcome for our clients, we cannot undo our clients’ actions.
Finding ways to help young people avoid peril by teaching them how to walk away from peer pressure can help prevent life-altering actions and ill-advised decisions. Often this begins with a greater understanding of the sort of peer pressure today’s young people encounter.
Understanding the Two Most Common Types of Peer Pressure
As stated, the media often shows peer pressure involving some type of strongarm tactics. While this violent form of peer pressure does happen, other forms are more common.
Spoken Peer Pressure – Verbally suggesting a young person engage in a specific activity. This can take a number of forms such as,
- Tormenting someone who refuses to take part
- Encouraging a young person to engage in drinking, smoking, or illicit drug use
- Inviting a peer to a party where others will take part in risky behaviour
- Offering acceptance and friendship in exchange for certain behaviours
Silent Peer Pressure – Unspoken peer pressure is much more restrained than the spoken counterpart. This is the pressure where members of a group of friends lead by (bad) example. For example, members of a group of friends decide to skip school and have a beach day. They may not taunt or encourage a teen to join. However, there is an unspoken understanding that everyone else in our group is doing this, so join us.
This sort of peer pressure is difficult to combat because it is especially subtle. It often begins with seemingly small changes. Clothing choices, musical tastes and groups of friends often change before other behavioural changes take place.
What Activities Are Encouraged by Peer Pressure?
Unfortunately, there is almost no end to the list of activities teens (and tweens) are encouraged to do by their peers.
The most common activities encouraged by peers are:
- Drinking alcohol and taking drugs
- Sexual activity including sexting and sharing nude images
- Theft and vandalism
- Dangerous driving and other forms of showing off for others
- Abandoning or bullying friends
How Can Parents Help?
If you believe your child is struggling with peer pressure, maintaining open and non-judgmental communication is crucial. Many young people in such a situation avoid discussing the issues with their parents. Suggesting options for them can be helpful. Additionally, working with your child to build their self-esteem can give them the ability to avoid giving in to peer pressure. Above all, expressing your unconditional love and acceptance can help your child as they navigate these turbulent waters.
Specific Ways to Help Build Up Your Child
- Communicate with them in a way they find familiar. There is nothing wrong with texting or instant messaging with your child if it provides an open door for them to share their feelings and experiences with you.
- Reassure them that you are on their side. Although it may go unspoken, children feel safer and more confident when they know a parent is in their corner.
- Make a point of building up your child in an authentic and specific way. Saying “good job” to your child is okay. However, being specific by saying, “you put a lot of work into raising your algebra grade, and I am impressed.” comes across as genuine.
- Teach your child that holding their head up and moving forward are skills they will use all of their lives.
- Encourage your children to value their accomplishments but remind them that everyone falls short sometimes. Their value is intrinsic and not based upon performance.
Remember, even though your child may seem full of themselves, inside, they are longing for acceptance and to fit in a world that can be bewildering.
At Lawson Legal, we put our 25 plus years of criminal law experience to work for you. We take a holistic approach to our cases because we are aware that nothing occurs in a vacuum. Defending our clients and making sure they receive due process is of paramount importance to us. And we strive to achieve the best outcome.
Do not risk your freedom by opting to go it alone in court. Feel free to contact us for a consultation if you or someone you know needs legal advice. We are available for emergencies 24 hours a day.