It is a natural human tendency to have the desire to fit in and want to be a part of a group that one likes or looks up to especially during the young teenage years when children are looking for belongingness or acceptance as well as attention. However, more often than not, instead of leading to more friends, this desire results into an unwanted pressure.
This pressure is referred to as the peer pressure. A social pressure that almost every person experiences at some point in their life. Peer pressure could be experienced due to external stimulation through the pressure from peers or internal encouragement to follow one's peers.
The maximum number of peer pressure cases are observed in adolescent years as every individual goes through a lot of internal as well as external changes during this time. Peers have a significant role in a child's development especially during adolescence. The influence peers make beginning from the earlier years only enhance through the teenage. It's natural and even important for children to make friends, be with them or even be like them which is good but at times this tendency can lead to some really pressuring impact. These days, the presence of social media has paved way for more instances of peer pressure among young children who want to make their presence felt on the social media platforms like their peers. Many a time, this is not out of their personal inclination but a result of the pressure around when they see majority of their companion indulged in it.
Some of the positive as well negative impacts of peer pressure are:
- Peer pressure can direct a child's social behaviour
- It also influences the child's emotional development
- Peer pressure can lead to self-doubt
- It can stimulate mental disorders like anxiety, depression
- Peers can be positive and supportive as well, helping each other develop new skills, or develop interest in books, music or extracurricular activities
- During teenage, peers can also nudge some negative habits in each other like skipping classes, steal, cheat, consume drugs, alcohol, etc.
- Most of the substance abuse cases have been observed to be an after effect of peer pressure
It is not easy to say no especially in the tender teenage years when there are a lot of changes that the child is facing emotionally, mentally, physically, hormonally and doesn't know how to handle them the best. During this age, the child also looks for acceptance, belongingness, friends, all of which create a pressure within not leading to the best of choices.
Some of the situations during which adolescents are most likely to experience peer pressure are:
- Skipping school
- Cheating during texts
- Copying someone's work
- Dressing in a certain way
- Not to be friends with someone
- Consuming alcohol, tobacco or drugs
- Sexting or having sex
Parents and teachers play a huge role in being the right guides for children at this age and help them navigate their way through these years.
Following points can be shared with kids about peer pressure:
- Keep away from peers who pressurise to do things that seem wrong or dangerous.
- Learn how to say "no," and avoid situations that feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
- Spend time with kids who resist peer pressure, at least one friend who is willing to say no.
- If facing peer pressure problems, talk to a grown up you trust, like a parent, teacher, or school counsellor.
Parents as well as teachers have a major role to play in not just guiding but in also recognizing when the child is going through peer pressure. Below are some tips for parents to help the child deal with peer pressure:
- Encourage open conversations and honest communication.
- Teach your child to be assertive and to resist getting involved in dangerous or inappropriate activities.
- Know your child's friends and how they interact, especially online. Communicate about safe internet and social media usage.
- Build self-confidence in your child. Ensure he/she feels good about himself/herself.
- Have ways to help the child get out of an uncomfortable or dangerous situations.
By Dr. Nishal Pinto, Clinical Psychologist, Columbia Asia Hospital Sarjapur Road