Challenges of peer pressure for youth

Peer pressure affects us all, and as Cayman’s youth grow older, they’ll face challenging decisions.

Making decisions can be hard, but when others pressure you, it can be even harder. Teenagers’ peers – their classmates and friends – may try to exert peer pressure and influence how they act. It’s something everyone has to deal with, even adults.

Peers influence your life, even if you don’t realize it, just by spending time with you. You learn from them, and they learn from you. They can have a positive influence: perhaps a student in your science class taught you an easy way to remember the planets in the solar system or someone on the soccer team taught you a cool trick with the ball.

But, sometimes peers influence each other in negative ways: Kids might try to get you to cut class, your soccer friend might try to convince you to be mean to another player and never pass him or her the ball, or a kid in the neighborhood might want you to smoke for the very first time.

Some kids give in to peer pressure because they want to be liked, to fit in, or because they worry that other kids might make fun of them if they don’t go along with the group. Others go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing. The idea that “everyone’s doing it” can influence some to leave their better judgment, or their common sense, behind.

All teenagers want to be popular, but this can often lead young people down the wrong path. Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious problem among many young people and can occur in the privacy of a friend’s home, at the movies or at a street event. In their efforts fit in, young people may experiment with drugs and alcohol; unfortunately, what might start out as an occasional occurrence can quickly lead to chronic abuse. In addition, age is not a barrier as drug use often begins during the pre-teen years.

As children enter their teens, they have to deal with discovering their self-identity, clarifying their sexual roles, asserting independence, coping with authority, and searching for goals that would give their lives meaning.

Teenage girls often dress in ways that distress their parents in order to be accepted by their peers and not necessarily to be sexually attractive. The battle over what clothing is and is not acceptable for teenage girls often begins early in adolescence, with parents favouring modesty and girls favouring more adult dress.

We also have to acknowledge that young people who do not succumb to dressing like the crowd may open themselves up to bullying and being ostracized by their peers.

Therefore, parents of teenage daughters need to be aware of their influence over their teens and to exercise it wisely, by focusing on educating their daughters about the risks of wearing inappropriate clothing.

It is high time for parents to come together and create some sort of network for dealing with this issue. If your child is dressing provocatively, this should be of great concern to you and, therefore, you may want to contact other parents within your neighborhood or community. There is great strength to be found in making allies with the parents of your child’s peers.

Peer pressure can be handled through dialogue with your children and awareness of the issues that concern them.

George Roper