5 Things Teens Are Peer Pressured Into Doing

Teens experience peer pressure in a variety of different ways.
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Is peer pressure a “real” thing? Yes, it is—but not in the way that pop culture and the media might have you thinking. Friends do play a role in your child’s decisions, but they don’t typically strongarm each other into trying dangerous things.

Instead, the influence is more subtle—it’s a matter of your teen seeing what other friends are doing and deciding to follow suit because they want to fit in. The idea that "everybody is doing it" can make teens make choices you wish they wouldn’t.

This is especially true when teens think the "cool kids" are doing something. Teens may make incorrect assumptions about cliques, but teens who believe the popular kids drink, smoke, or skip class, may think those behaviors will make them seem cool.

Overall, teens are more likely to hang out with the people who do the same things as they do. So, if your teen is into wholesome activities like sports or theater, they’ll probably have friends with the same values. If they fall into a group of people who like to drink or take risks, your teen is more likely to do the same.

The Most Common Peer-Pressured Activities

While your teen may seem level-headed and filled with common sense much of the time, emotions--and hormones--can lead your teen to make questionable decisions. It’s normal for teens to want to fit in and to test their limits and try out new personas. So don’t assume your child will be immune to all types of peer pressure.

However, you know your teen’s personality better than anyone else. Is he easily influenced? In that case, he’ll probably follow someone else’s lead and, in the end, try an activity he wouldn’t have done on his own. Other teens are able to resist the lure of following a friend into temptation.

Here are the five common activities teens are peer pressured into doing:

1. Using Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco

As you might suspect, these are some of the top behaviors that your teen could be exposed to by a pressuring friend. But, as previously mentioned, that doesn’t always mean a friend is thrusting a Solo cup into your child’s hand and forcing them to chug the beer. Instead, simply having beer, marijuana or cigarettes available could be enough pressure to have your teen saying “yes.”

E-cigarettes are quite common among today’s teens. Some of them falsely believe they aren’t harmful and their flavors are often quite enticing to teens. Teens are buying e-cigarettes online, often without their parents’ knowledge. There seems to be less of a stigma attached to e-cigarettes as compared to traditional cigarettes, which leads many teens to try them.

2. Stealing

In some cases, a teen might be encouraged by a friend to take an item without paying for it. In others, it could be a matter of wanting an item (such as an expensive video game or makeup) that other teens have. Hearing stories about how other teens steal without getting caught could cause your teen to think theft might be the fastest way to get what they want. 

3. Bullying

In a teen’s brain, it’s better to be the bully, than risk being picked on by someone else. Even worse, aligning with or standing up for the person being bullied can make your teen a target.

Therefore, it’s easy to be pressured into joining in on the taunting or cruel behaviors to avoid being the one who’s picked on. In the digital era, cyberbullying is a real threat too.

Your teen may be tempted to join in when someone is being picked on or called out on social media where a herd mentality often takes over. Often, teens say and do things behind their electronics that they would never do in person.

4. Sexual Activity

You might think this is a risky behavior limited to females, but rest assured that there are teen males out there who feel pressured into sexual activity, too. It’s quite likely that rumors and stories about sexual promiscuity abound throughout the school.

Sexting is a big problem with today’s teens as well. And despite many parents’ beliefs that their teen "would never do that," studies show most teens are sharing sexually explicit content with one another. Sexting has become normalized among teens, which causes many of them to overlook the potential risks involved in sharing nude or partially nude photos.

5. Other Risky Behavior

Around friends they wish to impress, teens often display behaviors they usually wouldn’t entertain. Whether a teen wants to show off how fast their car can go for their date or they want to be a "good friend" by letting pals cheat off their homework, the desire to be seen as "cool" can cause teens to be irrational at times.

Power of the Parent

Even if your teen is influenced by their friends, you have clout, too. Teens often don’t want to disappoint their parents (even if it doesn’t seem like that’s true most of the time!), and often wait to try risky behavior until they know what the consequences might be. Once your child reaches their teen years, lay out the rules and consequences for the activities they might be pressured into doing.

But how can you spot if your teen is being swayed by friends into dangerous territory? Keep communication lines open and search for signs that their behavior is changing, such as suddenly withdrawing, a change in clothing (and not for the better) or rude language or behavior. If you aim to keep a close relationship with your teen, you just might be able to head off problems before they begin. 

2 Sources
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  2. TeensHealth. Peer Pressure.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.