PEER PRESSURE: Societal Changes Sophisticate Children and Teens

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Sharon Scott Family Counselor

Every day children are pressured by their peers to think as they think and to do as they do. Research shows that 87% of kids face peer pressure daily! How can you help your child to withstand negative peer pressure and still be popular’ to ‘mainstream’ without losing his or her values’ to stay out of trouble’ to get along with others but be able to say ‘no’ when needed? You were faced with these challenges as a young person, but the pressures then were not as sophisticated and intense as they are now.

The changes in our way of life and society during the past 20 to 30 years challenge both children and parents. These changes subtly encourage children to grow up faster and force them to make difficult, often adult decisions at earlier ages. These peer pressures can range from talking in class, cheating, or staying out past a curfew to experimenting with alcohol, drag racing, or sex and more.

In my private counseling practice in north Texas, I constantly see the results of the negative influence kids can have on each other. My elementary-age clients are often confused with peer pressure to tease in unkind ways and be a part of a gossipy clique. My teen clients are struggling with the pressure to cheat and are torn between their values and being liked. Other teen clients are involved in alcohol at parties, other drugs, self-mutilation, lying to parents about where they’re going, and experimenting with sex. These youth all come from caring, loving homes with parents who have taught good values. So what’s happening in the way of peer pressure?

Isolation and lack of time for family communication, family work, and family play is at an all-time high. Latchkey children are home alone after school to fend for themselves or to supervise younger children. The mobility of society has put the extended family on the ‘endangered species’ list and strong neighborhood ties are often lacking. Compound that with the high divorce rate and financial pressures and the result is families in crisis.

Technology and labor saving devices can divide and separate. Computers are becoming almost addictive in their use by both adults and kids. Television often glorifies unhealthy sexuality and violence.

Put all this together and many youth spend more waking, communicating hours with peers and media then they do with their parents. And we wonder why values are changing?

Here are some suggestions, excerpted from my book for parents and helping professionals,

1. Manage your own peer pressure. Avoid letting the latest trend rule your buying habits. Don’t over schedule yourself because you cannot turn someone down. If other parents are letting their children go places or do things that you don’t think your children are ready for, don’t compromise your point of view. The bottom line is, if you can’t say no when you need to, how do you expect your children to say no when they need to?

2. Get to know some of your neighbors. Sponsor a block party. If a neighbor reports to you about your child’s misbehavior, thank him or her for letting you know.

3. Monitor television! There are other fun options such as game night, take a walk in the neighborhood, or have a DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) evening, etc.

4. Don’t put a telephone or TV in your child’s bedroom unless you want to (a) see your child less often, and (b) argue more when you do see him or her!

The idea is to give your child back their childhood! This can help slow things down and have more security to manage the negative peer pressure that comes their way. More tips to follow next month in this series on Peer Pressure Reversal.

Copyright 2018, Sharon Scott.

Sharon Scott

Sharon Scott

Sharon is the author of eight award-winning books including four on the topic of peer to peer pressure.

The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.

Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!

A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.

Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.
Sharon Scott ScottCounselor's CornerPeer PressurePEER PRESSURE: Societal Changes Sophisticate Children and Teens By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT Listen to a Podcast with Sharon Scott Every day children are pressured by their peers to think as they think and to do as they do. Research shows that 87% of kids face...Parenting Advice| Family Fun Activities for Kids