We all have our group of friends and love being a part of it, but what happens when we don’t realize the effect they have on our day to do day lives and thoughts. Fatema Kathawala takes us through this integral and deep system of peer pressure.
Say you’re sitting around with some friends playing video games and someone mentions a particular game that happens to be one of your favourites. “Oh, that game’s easy. So not worth the time,” one of your friends says dismissively. The others agree. Inwardly, you know that it is a game you happen to enjoy quite a lot but, outwardly, not wanting to debate the issue, you agree with the crowd. You have just experienced what is commonly referred to as peer pressure. It is probably more accurate to refer to this as peer influence or social influence to adopt a particular type of behaviour, dress, or attitude in order to be accepted as part of a group of your equals (peers).
As a teen, it’s likely that you’ve experienced the effect of peer influence in a number of different areas, ranging from the clothes you wear to the music you listen to. Peer influence is not necessarily a bad thing. We are all influenced by our peers, both negatively and positively, at any age. Sometimes, though, particularly in emotional situations, peer influence can be hard to resist, it really has become ‘pressure’ and you may feel compelled to do something you’re uncomfortable with.
Everyone gives in to pressure at one time or another, but have you thought about why people sometimes do things they don’t actually want to do? Here are some reasons:
- They want to be liked and don’t want to lose their friends
- They want to appear mature
- They are afraid of being rejected by others
- They don’t want to be made fun of
- They don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings
- They aren’t sure of what they really want
- They don’t know how to get out of the situation
TYPES OF PEER PRESSURE : NEGATIVE OR HARMFUL PEER PRESSURE
This kind of pressure forces a teenager to do things and take decisions that are harmful or will prove to be harmful in the future. Such as:
- SEX: Some girls feel pressured into having sex in order to be popular or liked by boys. Be open to your parents or someone you look up to for advice about all forms of sexual intercourse. Know that there are other reasons to not become sexually involved too early. Besides worrying about pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, you must remember to also consider pride and self-respect.
- SMOKING AND ALCOHOL: Taking up smoking or consuming alcohol will more than likely be the first areas where a teenager will face peer pressure. With movies and television portraying smoking and drinking characters as being tough and rebellious, teens imitate this type of behaviour in order to flaunt their independence.
- DRUGS: A more dangerous and potentially life-threatening pressure faced is the usage of drugs. If your friends are doing drugs, then you’re very much at risk. Hard drugs such as sleeping pills, barbiturates, pain pills, crystal meth and coke are not only highly addictive, but they can be fatal. Combine temptation and opportunity with a teenager’s curiosity, and you have a recipe for disaster. Teens don’t believe that one does not have to be a regular user in order to become addicted. By the time they finally believe it, it’s too late for them to stop.
According to Dr.B. J. Casey from the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, teens are very quick and accurate in making judgments and decisions on their own and in situations where they have time to think. However, when they have to make decisions in the heat of the moment or in social situations, their decisions are often influenced by external factors like peers.
POSITIVE PEER PRESSURE
Peer pressure isn’t always bad. Just as people can influence others to make negative choices, they can also influence them to make positive ones. A teen might join a volunteer project because all of his or her friends are doing it, or get good grades because the social group he or she belongs to thinks getting good grades is important. In fact, friends often encourage each other to study, try out for sports, or follow new artistic interests. In this way, peer influence can lead teens to engage in new activities that can help build strong pathways in the brain.
While we are constantly influenced by those around us, ultimately the decision to act (or not to act) is up to us as individuals. So when it comes to decision making, the choice is up to you.
SEVEN CONDITIONS THAT PUT YOU AT HIGHER RISK TO GIVE INTO PEER PRESSURE
- Low self-importance
- Lack of confidence
- No particular interests or hobbies
- Feeling isolated from family
- The need to fit in
- Being made fun of or called a loser