By Timothy LaGro, M.A. LMHC
How to Spot Peer Pressure
In my work with preteens and teens over the past five years, some peer pressures have not changed since when I was an adolescent in the early 70’s. In many ways, the pressures of sexuality, experimenting with drugs, and music that parents do not want their kids listening to, are the same. I find that one of my many roles as a therapist when working with teens and families is to help keep the parents up to date on what is going on in their children’s world, that may be different than when they were adolescents.
Peer Pressures have Increased with Technology
There are many areas of concern which have increased peer pressure and pressure in general on pre-teens and teens alike. The first is the avalanche of information from social media, internet, and schools. This has magnified the sexualizing of everything which has led to earlier exploration with sex. A huge new pressure today, it is okay to be whatever gender you want to be. The internet gives permissive authority to try anything that they learn on YouTube, Netflix, etc. Profanity is now just normal language as seen on TV and the internet pervasively.
The second area increasing pressures on teens is the lack of real connection. The information age has created a delusion that teens are connecting with people but they are screaming “look at me”. The whole family sitting around the living room on their phones while together is not the connecting kids are looking for.
Teens Lacking a Respect for Others
The third area is that of “respect”. The information age is very judgmental of authority and is teaching teens to first, get respect before giving it and to use your parents as a means to what you want.
The last areas that the information age has brought which have increased peer pressure is that of "constant uncertainty” and drug use for numbing feelings. The internet is a constant source of doom and gloom 24-7 and unlimited use of technology can fuel uncertainty. Internet fosters the idea that everyone can win and become a superstar. Technology has taught teens to numb feelings and the answer to your pain is on your tablet, phone or parents or grandparents' pills. Prescriptions pills are the number one drug abused among teens today. Marijuana is ten times stronger than back in the 70’s. Nine out of ten addictions begin in adolescence.
Communicate with your Teen
So what can parents do? Listen, Listen, Listen and learn active listening skills. Provide a regular non-judgmental forum for your family to talk about the pressures of life. What we all want is a relationship, real relationships. Many times during adolescence parents get too caught up in telling our kids what to do instead of listening and helping them to make their own choices.
Tough Guys and Drama Queens, Mark Gregston, 2005, Thomas Nelson