Teens & Peer Pressure

Teen peer pressure is the influence a teen’s social group has on him or her. Peer pressure is a part of life for everyone, but it can be an especially strong influence during the teen years when peers are very important to a teen’s identity. This means that teens need to learn to handle peer pressure, and to recognize when it is positive and when it is negative.

As adolescents enter the teen years, they usually begin to focus more on their peers or friends. The desire to fit in with peers can be a very strong influence on teens. Peers influence most aspects of a teen’s life, including how teens dress, what music they listen to, and what kind of activities they are involved in. Peer pressure can be direct or indirect, but it is almost always present. Learning to handle peer pressure helps a teen mature and learn positive ways to get along with others.

The Good & Bad of Teen Peer Pressure:

Teen Peer pressure is not always bad. Good friends can encourage teens to do well in school, get involved in positive activities, volunteer, eat healthy foods, and avoid drugs, alcohol, and other risky activities. Friends also help teens learn good social skills and better ways to communicate and work out problems, and give teens good advice.

Even pressure to do good things can be bad for teens, however, if they don’t learn to say no when they need to. For instance, a teen may need to say no to going to a movie if he or she has homework that needs to be done. Always going along with what others want can cause a teen to have lower self esteem, and to give up things that are important to him or her.

Negative teen peer pressure is when teens feel pressured to do something they know is wrong, such as smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or stealing, or something they don’t want to do such as cutting class or having sex. Teens may be tempted to give in to negative peer pressure because they want to be liked or fit in, they are afraid of being made fun of, or they want to try something other teens are doing. Negative peer pressure will remain a part of a teen’s life into adulthood, which is why it is important for teens to learn how to deal with it.

Some things a teen can do to handle peer pressure include:

  • Decide before you get into situation what your values and standards are.
  • Choose good friends who share your values. Good friends use positive peer pressure to help you be your best self.
  • Avoid situations where people are doing things you don’t want to do.
  • Think about your reasons for doing things: Are they good reasons? Are you being true to yourself and your values? Think about what the consequences will be of your decisions and actions, such as if an activity might harm your health or get you into trouble.
  • Practice ways to say no – come up with excuses if necessary, such as that you don’t want to get in trouble, damage your body or mind, or risk blowing your involvement in sports or academics.
  • Talk to your parents or a trusted adult about the kinds of peer pressure you face and listen to their advice.
  • With your parents or another trusted adult, come up with a code word you can use to let the adult know that you need help getting out of a bad situation but can’t talk about it.

Remember that if just one teen stands up against peer pressure, usually others will join him or her, and learning to handle peer pressure gives teens more confidence and maturity.

Teen Peer Pressure Sources:

  • Girls and Boys Town, “Peer Pressure” [online]
  • SAMHSA, Family Guide, “Peer Pressure: Good or Bad” [online]
  • SAMHSA, National Mental Health Information Center, “Preparing Youth for Peer Pressure” [online]
  • Healthline, Ken Wells, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, 2006, “Peer Pressure” [online]