During advisory on April 11 of this year, students came together to discuss the presence of and ways to manage peer pressure in their lives. Peer pressure -- the influence others have on our actions -- is a common obstacle faced by high schoolers, which is why it is such a crucial topic to discuss.
To prepare for the advisory, students were asked to take a survey on peer pressure. It was anonymous, completed voluntarily by over 550 members of the SUA community, and offered interesting insights as to how students experience peer pressure.
As expected, a majority of students agreed that they have experienced peer pressure. “It’s just another part of life,” says one student. “Girls experience forms of peer pressure everyday.” Of the many types of peer pressure listed by survey-takers, an overarching theme is evident: a desire to “fit in.” About 81% of students agree that they care about what others think of them, and one-third admit to acting differently so their peers will accept them. As one freshman puts it, “you never want to be that girl who everyone is calling ‘weird’ or ‘rude.’” This peer pressure often presents itself indirectly: “the social norm, although often unintentional, is a form of peer pressure.”
When asked about the prevalence of peer pressure in their lives, many students responded that weekend social events were a common setting for such circumstances. Initially, many feel pressured just to attend certain social gatherings; 44% of girls at SUA will go to an event even if they don’t want to because they don’t want to let others down. “When I don’t show up to events people get mad,” claims a respondent. “I never have time for myself.” Another student adds that “people will encourage others to skip out on family events or their homework in order to go to a party.” Past that, many girls experience pressure once at these events to participate in activities they are not comfortable with, such as drinking, smoking, or vaping, “because that is what is considered to be popular and cool.”
The desire for social status coincides with peer pressure in the realm of social media as well, as several students pointed out in their responses. “Everyone tries to post the perfect picture on social media to create the ‘correct’ image of themselves.” Girls describe friends who pay more attention to taking pictures during activities than actually participating because there is an underlying need to constantly be “posting” on social media. One student says she feels “pressured to live up to expectations of going out, looking pretty, and having the cutest clothes” because that is what she sees on social media every day. “Society dictates how we live life via social media,” suggests a different student. 53% of students agree that they care too much about others’ opinion, and the public nature of social media plays into this -- “people feel pressured to act a certain way because everyone can see them, and they want to be ‘acceptable’ in the eyes of others.” Girls who compare their lives to those of people on social media experience indirect peer pressure in that they want to be like what they see in order to gain approval.
Comparison is not only an issue socially, but also academically. Several students point out the presence of peer pressure within the classroom: “We are influenced by our peers into taking harder classes, working harder, and placing huge importance on grades,” expresses one student, “but for those who push themselves too hard, the pressure can be detrimental mentally and socially.” Others agree, reiterating that peer pressure can be competitively-based. Conversely, students’ academic integrity has been challenged within school due to peer pressure toward cheating. A survey-taker offers the example of “someone begging to see answers to homework if they haven’t done it.” Considering this example along with the 36% of students who admit they find it difficult to say no to friends, one can easily recognize how peer pressure can cause girls to make regrettable decisions in the classroom.
The survey results have shown that peer pressure affects girls in two major areas, and many are wondering what can be done to combat its effects. Studies have shown that people most susceptible to peer pressure are those who are lacking in self-esteem or do not have solid friend-base. Many students agree with this, with one noting that “it just takes a person who is confident enough in herself to resist these pressures,” while another asserts that “once you surround yourself with people who hype you up and support you, you are unstoppable.”
At SUA, nearly three-fourths of students agree that they are confident in themselves and 88% express that their friends encourage them to be their best selves. This brings us one step closer to overcoming the negative impacts of peer pressure. “Girls need to realize they have a whole life ahead of them and a big beautiful world to live it in,” declares one student. Another concludes: “at the end of the day, your morals and integrity are more important than being cool.”
https://teenlineonline.org/ (hotline for teens, operated by teens → positive peer influence!)