“Everyone else is doing it.”
Every parent of a teen has heard or will hear these words at some point in time: “But everyone else is doing it!” The pressure to fit in, or to do what others are doing, can be powerful and hard to resist, especially for teenagers. Peer pressure can influence teens in many ways. Sometimes it can be positive, such as wanting to get better grades to be more like the “smart crowd,” while other times it can be negative, such as going along with the crowd to drink or smoke. Ironically, even parents can fall prey to this pressure, thinking that if all of their teen’s friends are attending a party they will be ruining their teen’s social life if they prevent their teen from attending.
We recommend you fight the “everyone else is doing it” rumor with facts.
There is a lot of talk about all the things that other teens claim to be doing—drinking, using drugs, and having sex to name a few. But, the truth is, many of those claims aren’t true. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 70% of high school students have never tried smoking a cigarette, over 35% have never tried alcohol, and almost 60% have never had sexual intercourse.
Teens actually overestimate how much their peers are drinking, smoking, and having sex, and underestimate how much their peers study and exercise. A recent study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Stanford demonstrates teens’ tendency to exaggerate stereotypes and it influences their behavior. For example, teens in the study assumed the “burnouts” were smoking a half-pack to a whole pack of cigarettes per day. In reality, kids identified as belonging to this clique actually smoked an average of two to three cigarettes per day. These students were also wrongly presumed to shoplift and damage property more frequently – and study less – than they actually do. The groups identified as “jocks” and “populars” were presumed to be more sexually active and to party more than their peers. But, the research showed that they were actually not engaging in risky behavior more than other kids.
As a result, set the record straight before your teen enters high school. Give your teen the facts listed above and tell your teen the following:
- Just because everyone else is doing something does not make it a good idea to do. Research has proven that groups of people make poor choices and/or irrational decisions simply in an effort to conform or maintain harmony in the group.
- You cannot assume that peers are being honest when they brag about risky behaviors. Some teenagers will exaggerate the truth, or even lie, in an effort to be perceived as “cool.”
- The actual facts show that the majority of teens (more than 50%) are NOT drinking, smoking, or having sex.
- There is not one thing in this world that “everyone” is doing. There is only peer pressure and your decision. What you choose can have a significant impact on the rest of your life, so choose wisely.
Teenagers desperately want to be accepted, and that is why the pressure to conform is so high. One of the best things a parent can do to help their teen make wise choices is to give them strategies for dealing with peer pressure. You can learn how to do this in our previous blog: Helping Teens Be Prepared to Say No.
Many parents actually feel guilty for placing limits on their teen’s activities, especially if the limit isolates their teen from the rest of their peer group. Strangely, many parents feel the need to compare themselves to their teenage friend’s parents to make sure they are ‘normal parents.’ Normal isn’t necessarily okay and can potentially be dangerous. Parents should keep their ultimate goals in mind at all times – keeping your teen safe and preparing your teen for successful adulthood.