No question, peer pressure is amplified in the online environment and social media. In the past, when a friend or classmate said something to goad a teen, it was often a fleeting moment of discomfort. How have things changed! Imagine how teens must feel today, when a comment is posted on their Facebook wall or Instagram account, and preserved for the teen to look at over and over again. Of course, both positive and negative comments or expectations from the group occur are equally exaggerated under the microscopic lens of social media.
Before examining the positive and negative effects of peer pressure, let’s first start with a definition of peer pressure:
“Peer pressure is the social influence of a peer group exerted on its individual members, as each member attempts to conform to the expectations of the group.”
Teens may be pressured by their peers both positively and negatively. Just a handful positive influences include: getting good grades, achieving personal excellence in sports and extracurricular activities, and being a force of good in other people's’ lives. Negative influences include: experimenting with drugs, stealing, breaking the law, showing disrespect to oneself and others. While there is positive peer pressure and negative peer pressure, it really comes down to the teen in terms of how they will respond.
Maturity of the Teen
One of the ways in which an individual can avoid succumbing to the effects of peer pressure is having a strong sense of Self. For many teens, the Internet has been absolutely crucial in developing their sense of Self. They feel the freedom to express themselves online, and finding those of like mind that further boosts their confidence to have integrity in their own personal beliefs. For these teens, happiness truly awaits as they can live their life on their terms, without struggling to fit in with the group. Social media provides a means to for these teens to “curate” how they appear to the group, strengthening their own identity.
Some teens are late bloomers, spending their teenage years wrestling with their identity. The Internet really does these teens no favors, as they see a constant barrage of what others think or do posted online, and try to put on a front that they fit into the group. In doing so, these teens are more susceptible to making poor choices to try to fit into a group they think is cool.
Positive Peer Pressure and Negative Peer Pressure
The Internet is home to both positive and negative influences. Interestingly, studies have shown that teens who spend an inordinate amount of time on social media sites are more likely to see their friends participate in poor choices (such as smoking, drinking, premarital sex, etc). According to a CASA Columbia 2012 teen survey, teens who frequently see such pictures are:
- Four times likelier to have used marijuana;
- More than three times likelier to have used alcohol; and
- Almost three times likelier to have used tobacco.
These findings have inspired discussion surrounding social media sites and whether they are accountable for amplifying peer pressure for kids.
Minimizing Online Effects of Peer Pressure
No question, social media sites and their ability to amplify peer pressure - both good and bad - is very complex. While kids who don’t have social media accounts are less likely to participate in poor lifestyle choices, we cannot make a blanket statement that social media sites are bad for kids. There are ways however, that teens can act to counter peer pressure.
- Limit exposure: Spending hours browsing social media feeds is unhealthy for a variety of reasons. By limiting exposure, teens can participate in healthier activities such as playing sports, reading a book, or hanging out with friends and family.
- Utilize the best aspects of social media: In respect to peer pressure for kids, teens may take the best of what social media offers. Using the platforms to connect with new friends with similar interests and goals that can have an encouraging influence is a great way to leverage social media sites.
- Avoid negative content: It’s not only about avoiding content that is obviously negative, such as drug use and pornography - but also influences that can make an individual feel their confidence dwindle. Teens may notice certain feeds of popular celebrities (such as Kardashians) make them feel insecure or overly focused on superficial topics such as body image and wealth. Minimizing exposure to influences that draw futile comparisons between the teen and others, or act as a blow to one’s ego is good response to avoid negative peer pressure.
- Stay connected: According to a Pew research study, more than eight-in-ten (83%) of social media-using teens say social media makes them more connected to information about what is happening in their friends’ lives and 70% say these social platforms better connect them to their friends’ feelings. Now that sounds positive, doesn’t it? Also from Pew, “seven-in-ten teens receive support from their friends during tough times.”
If your teen is feeling a lot of pressure to garner likes for their content, it may impact their scholastic studies and overall happiness - if that’s the case, it may be time to put a pause on social media and the effects of peer pressure.
Everyone deals with peer pressure differently. For some, social media creates an environment to further cement one’s identity. For others, the proliferation of opinions and drive to curate likeable content can propel them to do or say things just to fit into the group.
We hope this article has introduced some ways social media can have a positive and negative influence over your kids - and have provided ways you may be able to guide your child to a path where he can benefit from all of the advantages of social media, without the disadvantages.
Did you know Pinterest, a seemingly innocent social network may be a profound negative influence on your kid? Discover why on our blog about hidden dangers of Pinterest.