Children spend many of their waking hours at school or engaged in extra-curricular activities and in doing so, they foster bonds with their peers. A recent article in The Daily Telegraph pointed out that a child’s friends have a significant impact on their behaviour. It further stated that popular culture, friends, and street gangs had a greater influence than their genetic make-up or the lessons they learnt at home.
With such a great influence exerted by peers, it is important for parents and teachers to safeguard children from steering towards bad behaviour. Illicit drug abuse is a particular concern. Although statistics show there has been a fall in the prevalence of drug use among students, the problem still exists. Research also suggests that boys are generally more susceptible to drug use than girls.
In an earlier article, we have discussed how schools can create a safe and drug-free environment and the onus lies with teachers to educate students about good and negative peer influence.
Students need to be accepted at school and mix with friends. They tend to be influenced by the attitudes and lifestyles of their peers. It is normal for them to do things in their social circle which help them feel valued. However, it is not wise to follow one’s friends blindly.
Peer influence can have negative effects
In their need to be accepted by their friends, students can often indulge in behaviours they are not comfortable with. At a young and vulnerable age, they may fail to understand the impact of giving in to peer pressure. Help them to look out for the following signs:
Explain to children that when they feel compelled to do something they dislike, it is a bad sign. An example could be taking up a hobby or activity just because their peers do, without much thought to where their own interests lie.
Cultivation of bad habits
Peer pressure is powerful. It can force young people to do things they are not comfortable with. It can bring about a change in attitude and lifestyle. Vey often, peer influence is the main reason why students take up drug use, alcohol, and smoking.
Loss of individuality
Peer influence may compel students to follow everything their peers do, adopting their fashion sense, hairstyle, and so on. This can lead to a child losing their originality.
Peer influence can be positive too!
Peer influence can bring about positive changes.
Adopting good habits
Peers can help others change for the better. For example, knowing that their friends are avid readers can encourage students to read and people who play sports very often inspire their friends to join in.
Losing bad habits
Peer influence can also deter other students from experimenting with drugs. Students may be persuaded to turn over a new leaf when their peers frown upon their bad habits or tell them about the damage drugs can cause.
The bottom line
Students should be made aware that the difference between positive and negative peer influence is all about the outcome and intention. If a student is convinced to do something which turns out to be good for them, the peer influence is positive. And if they are pressurised to make an unhealthy choice, the peer influence is negative.
Similarly, students need to be made aware of digital peer influence. The principles of offline peer influence apply to the online world as well.
To help protect students from negative influences online, get in touch with us today!