So why shouldn’t you? It’s almost expected that you will experience peer pressure frequently throughout your teen years.
Say you're invited to a party where you know there will be alcohol or drugs. A friend decides to cut class. Someone offers you a cigarette. Or friends talk about having sex with their boyfriends or girlfriends. How do you respond? Are you tempted to follow their footsteps? Or can you stand strong in your own beliefs?
At some point, everyone has the desire to fit into a group. If you're interested in sports, you might hang out with the "jocks." If you're interested in music, you spend time with others who enjoy music. It feels as if you belong to that group and feel secure when you are part of it. The group identifies who you are and what you’re about. But what if people in "your group" start doing things that are wrong, hurtful, or even illegal? What if these same people are your friends? This is what we refer to as peer pressure (the pressure to conform to the behaviors, attitudes, and personal habits of "the group.") In many cases, there are serious risks involved. Let’s look at some common situations.
Think about what you would do in each one:
- "My friends told me about this party at this abandoned warehouse on Friday night. I know there’s going to be alcohol involved, and someone there is supposed to bring some marijuana. I don’t drink or do drugs, but I don’t want them to think I’m a loser."
- "This older guy at church that I really like smokes cigarettes. He keeps offering them to me and my friends. Last week my best friend Stacy smoked one with him."
- "My girlfriend keeps pleading with me to go all the way with her. She says 'everybody’s having sex' these days, but I want to save myself for marriage. All of my friends have had sex, and I really like my girlfriend. I don’t want her to think I’m some kind of prude."
In all of these cases, your decision about how to handle the peer pressure can have huge consequences:
- What if the cops find the party at the warehouse and you are arrested? How would your parents react when the police call them? How would an arrest affect your college admissions or your reputation?
- As for the second example, it goes without saying how bad smoking is for your health, including the risks of lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. It's all too easy to get hooked on cigarettes.
- Speaking of long-term effects, you really have to think through what you’d do in the third example. Having sex even one time could leave your girlfriend pregnant. You’d have to change your life from student ... to a parent. And what if you got a STD? (Sexually Transmitted Disease) How would you cope if you found out you had gonorrhea or HIV?
Assessing the Risks of Peer Pressure
As you see, there can be loads of risks involved with peer pressure. Unfortunately, most of us are not applauded for our logical thought processes. Most feel invulnerable, like "nothing bad can ever happen to me." But you need to assess the risks well in advance. Consider these questions before you're tempted to follow the crowd:
-Could this harm me physically?
-Could this harm someone else?
-Is this against the law?
-Could I go to jail?
-What are the long-term effects of my actions to my health? My education? My family relationships?
Now, let’s lighten up. You can also use peer pressure to your advantage. Think of it as "competitive" peer pressure.
For example, if you’re active in sports, your teammates probably pressure you to be the best you can be. If you’re on the schools track team, you pace yourself with the fastest runner, because you know it will make you better. If you’re striving for good grades, you compare your scores to those at the top of the list. If you’re in the band, and there are musicians better than you, you are pressured into striving to be the best musician you can be.
The Choice Is Yours
At some point, every person must stand alone, even when tempted by friends and other peers. You know what is right. You know what is wrong. And only you can decide which path to take.
Ask almost anyone who has "been there, done that" about peer pressure. Most people have gone with the crowd at some point in their teenage lives, and they’ve had to live with the consequences. You'll likely hear that falling into to peer pressure wasn't worth it.
Now is your chance to believe in yourself and to stand alone, if you need to. When faced with group demands, assess the risks ahead of time. If you are uncomfortable doing something, don't be afraid to decline the invitation with a ''no, thanks.''
Learning to stand up for yourself and your beliefs and to look ahead to consequences of your actions are important steps in becoming a responsible adult.
I hope you enjoyed this article, if you did please feel free to have a look at some of my other articles dotted about the site. –Nicole xxx