Understanding and Managing Teen Peer Pressure

Jennifer L. Betts
Happy teenager among his peers

You know that your friends affect you. That sweater you are wearing or that bag you have might be proof. But did you realize that peer pressure can be both positive and negative? It can have all different types of effects, too. Learn what peer pressure is and how to handle it.

What Are Peers?

When you were a little kid, your peers were the kids you hung out with at the playground who were vetted by your parents. What kid hasn't heard, you can't hang out with Billy, he's a bad kid? But now that you're older, you pretty much choose your own friends. They might be the kids that you hang out with at school or your clique. Your peers are also the friends you have in your neighborhood, the kids you know from work, or your youth group friends. As a teen, you have many peers that fall into different categories of your life. They might not all hang out with you at once, but they all influence you in one way or another.

What Is Peer Pressure?

The way that your friends influence you is peer pressure. Sometimes peer pressure is subtle, such as buying a sweater because it's what all your friends are wearing, but other times it's easy to spot. When someone is pressuring you into driving faster or making fun of you because you are the only one not drinking, peer pressure is a bit easier to see. Now, there are all kinds of different peer pressure and statistics about it, but basically it boils down into two main types: positive and negative.

Negative Peer Pressure

You hear about negative peer pressure all the time on your social media feed. Negative peer pressure is the kind that gets you to do something you know isn't right, or maybe you don't want to do. For example, all your friends are doing drugs and even though you know it's wrong, you do it too. Maybe because a friend begged you to, you decided to steal a lighter from that store. Negative peer pressure leads you to do something you wouldn't normally do or that is legally or morally wrong.

Drinking Beers at a Party

Positive Peer Pressure

Peers aren't all bad. It might seem like it because positive peer pressure never really sees the light of day in media, but your friends are your friends for a reason. Peers can make you do amazing things. If you have the right friends around you, your peers can influence your grades by encouraging you to study. Just being around people that are doing good in your community, such as a youth group, can make you do good as well. The right peers can make you a better person.

How Peer Pressure Affects You

Peer pressure can affect you in a lot of different ways depending on whether it is negative or positive pressure. Both types have subtle and very obvious affects. It's important to explore both.

Positive Effects

Negative Effects

Negative effects can be more devastating, depending on how bad the influence is.

Handling Peer Pressure

Before you can handle peer pressure, you need to be able to understand the kind of peer pressure that is affecting you. Once you know whether your decisions are being affected by peer pressure, then you can make some changes to handle it before it gets out of control.

Surround Yourself With Positive Influences

Before your headed down the road to self-destruction, check your friends. Do the people you surround yourself with lift you up, or do they have the characteristics of a bad friend? If you find they aren't good for you, then you might need to consider changing your friend group.

Enthusiastic teenagers on footbridge

Listen to Your Inner Voice

Everyone has that inner voice that tells them if something is right or wrong. If your alarm is going off, get yourself out of the situation quickly. This might mean having a talk with your parents or an older sibling to have a code to get you out of a sticky jam. For example, if you text zero, maybe your older brother will call telling you that you need to come home right now. For situations that don't have a blaring alarm, you might want to step back and ask yourself, "how does this feel?" If it feels wrong, it's probably peer pressure at play.

Understand Your Limitations

Even if the pressure around you is positive, you still can't please everyone. You can try your best to get that A, but don't stress yourself out doing it. Just be the best that you can be because no one is perfect.

Be That Friend

Standing up to pressure alone is hard. But if you have a buddy, then you aren't alone. Be that friend that will stand up for others when they are pressured and hope they can be that friend for you. Remember, it only takes one person to say no and usually someone else will follow.

Ask for Advice

If in doubt, ask your parents. This is never the answer that any teenage wants to hear, but it is invaluable advice all the same. Parents were once teens too. And while they might seem super uncool now, they might have a tactic for handling peer pressure that you've never thought of. So, if in doubt, ask it out.

Dealing With Peer Pressure

Peer pressure comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of it is good, while some of it is really bad. Peer pressure can have all different consequences too. Now that you know what it is, you've got an arsenal ready and waiting to handle it.

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Understanding and Managing Teen Peer Pressure