Having peers is an integral part in a child’s development. Socially, interacting with other children in their age group teaches communication and encourages them to make their own decisions. They also learn appropriate behavior around others.
Emotionally, having interactions with other children shows them how to bond with those outside of their own family and teaches them how to cope with situations that they would not find in the home. The also learn how to manage their feelings and see how others are able to manage their feelings and emotions.
We all have peers, but for children in this period in time, the negative effects of peer pressure are escalating.
Photo Credit: Rafael Castillo
Definition of Peer Pressure
What exactly IS peer pressure? According to Dictionary.com: “social pressure by members of one’s peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted.”
Hardly a day goes by or a news report is heard, that does not mention something about peer pressure. We see it in magazines and blogs, most often pertaining to young teenagers. Rarely do we hear much about peer pressure as it relates to children. We may not hear about it, but rest assured, it exists.
When does peer pressure start?
Peer pressure definitely carries a negative connotation, but does have some positives, depending on the situation of course. Sometimes because of positive, or good peer pressure, our kids are stopped from doing things they shouldn’t.
Being swayed by our peers starts at an early age. Four-year-olds are influenced by other kids, even at pre-school and daycare. We see that when we watch them in play. An otherwise mild mannered child can act out merely by watching an aggressive playmate. An aggressive child can manipulate the mild mannered child into giving him/her a particular toy. Peer pressure begins as soon as our kids start being around other kids.
Elementary school children are being faced with peer pressure on a regular basis. It’s not a new thing, peer pressure has been around for forever. However, now it seems that children are not only being faced with the pressure of wanting to be part of a group at an earlier age, but they also have a fierce sense of wanting to be loyal to that group.
Our kids are now faced with the added stress that social media places upon them. It is surprising how early children are given access to social media. There is also a huge pressure for younger children to take part in social networking. Not being allowed to be part of the social networking scene will in itself cause the child problems with his/her peers.
Social network formats like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter give users instant gratification, or instant rejection. Before social networking, when a child was rejected by his/her peers, only those around knew about it. Now, if a child is rejected, the whole social networking world is aware.
Bullying isn’t new, but bullying on social networking sites is easy to do and can make school miserable for some children. We have all heard about the teen suicides that were related to online bullying. Any child of any age is fair game to online bullying and rejection.
Children of middle school age, between ten and twelve, are now called ‘tweens‘. Because of their tender age, tweens are especially vulnerable and easily affected by peer pressure and negativity. They are even more easily swayed than older teenagers and middle school can be the beginning of behavior that will affect what they do in high school.
Children of this age group are very aware of how many ‘friends’ their peers have accumulated on social networking sites. They see who has gone where with whom and can feel left out and rejected.
Most children in this age group have cell phones and can be in constant communication with their peers. Constant contact with social networking and not only leads to additional peer pressure but can be dangerous on so many levels.
Normalizing bad behavior
Bad behavior is being normalized and romanticized. You do not even have to leave your living room to see how the behavior in commercials, TV shows and music is being made to seem normal. The term ‘everyone is doing it’ is certainly not a new term. However, the behaviors that ‘it’ refers to in this day and age do not carry the same consequences as ‘it’ once did. Normalizing bad behavior is one of the serious negative effects of peer pressure on kids.
Being a parent is frightening. You want your children to feel that they fit in, but at the same time you do not want them to be followers and give in to negative peer pressure.
The negative effects of peer pressure on kids can have far reaching effects. Talking to your children about making good choices regardless of what their friends are doing is so important. A strong parent/child relationship can make all the difference.
American Psychological Association (APA):
peer pressure. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 04, 2015, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/peer pressure