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The Power Of Peer Pressure

by | Nov 12, 2023 | RE@L StudentCorner | 0 comments

Peer Pressure. Keep Reading. Other people have!

Ah, yes. Good old peer pressure! It’s 2023, and it seems like peer pressure is more pervasive than ever, isn’t it? But then again, when has it not been pervasive? As an adult, I can look back to my more formative years as a teenager and recall some pretty stupid things I did at the beckoning of friends. How about you?

At that time, the pressure to do things you’d never tell your parents about occurred at the school lunchroom table or at ball practice or a school dance or on the telephone connected to a wire connected to a wall (imagine that!). Remember those? And the pressure was immediate. It was the ultimate exercise in ‘I dare you’ mentality that made us act more like lemmings than thoughtful human beings.

Of course, peer pressure is not a new thing. Where there are or have been human beings, one can find peer pressure. President John F. Kennedy, for instance, faced peer pressure from advisers and influencers during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. James Watson and Francis Crick, leveraged competition and peer pressure to discover the structure of DNA, forever impacting genetic research across the globe. 

That was then. This is now. What remains true and always has been true where there are human beings: peer pressure is a constant facing all of us — every minute of every day. Think it’s not true? Try this as an assignment over the holidays: count the number of times in family gatherings (where we used to play board games) when at least one individual is not present for a discussion because they are scrolling through their social media on their handheld device, a constant exposure to influence and peer pressure! Admission: I am known to do this until someone politely calls it to my attention. Take it from me, scrolling for the next bright shiny object is addictive. Imagine the lure for teenagers!

Whether we are scrolling for breaking news or misinformation or disinformation, it feels like the recent emergence of social media platforms has accelerated peer influence at all ages. Think that’s not true? Perhaps you may wish to research the advent of social media influencers on social media. Yes! You could be creating or supplementing your income! Influencing through social media is not a bi-product of the platform. It is its purpose! 

It’s one of many reasons why our young people today stay so connected to their devices. They have become numbed and anesthetized by the outrageous only to become comforted by the continuous connection of others through their handheld device. So comforted, actually, that they are willing to sacrifice a face-to-face discussion in the very same environment. Why not a game of Monopoly instead? Research on the impact of social media influences is only just beginning, but it is important to note a recent study summarized in Forbes magazine: TikTok Sways Teens To Take Up Vaping, Study Says (May 16, 2023): 

“While social platforms have already been shown to put teens at risk for mental health challenges such as sleep disruption, exposure to bullying and peer pressure, and increased cases of depression and anxiety, new research shows that teens on TikTok are also being influenced to take up vaping.” 

Certainly, social media can be attributed to many physical and mental health related issues. But vaping on TikTok, a social media platform with more than 1.67 billion users? Talk about peer pressure on steroids!  

Leaders everywhere are coming to realize the fertile ground that is leveraged by influencers through peer pressure in social media with young people as the primary targets. More and more, we are seeing policies which restrict the content on social media or restrict the use of phones in some environments — especially classrooms. Here’s the thing: despite the restrictions (which may be warranted), peer pressure through social media is not going away. So long as there is money to be made and people willing to spend the money, the rich, organic ground that is social media will continue, and it will flourish no matter the number of victims.

This holiday season then, let’s place a premium on good, old fashioned face-to-face conversation shall we? It’s a value we at RE@L, Inc. have placed in developing our anti-smoking, anti-nicotine, anti-vaping product, 1Up On Vaping™. While social media channels may influence teenagers by glamorizing vaping, we know that face-to-face peer pressure is many times the strongest form of influencing:

Yes, influencing and peer pressure are perhaps more pervasive and ubiquitous than they have ever been, and we are all susceptible, but none more perhaps than our youngest populations. RE@L’s 1Up On Vaping curriculum can serve as a much needed antidote to the barrage of suggestive images and communications coming directly to our young people through social media on their hand held devices.

Schools Are Looking To RE@L’s 1Up On Vaping™ to help them ‘Take Down Teen Nicotine’

Your School Should, Too

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Randy Nelson


Randy Nelson is a retired educator of 38 years. He served students as a high school speech, theater, and English teacher. He served colleagues as a director of curriculum and instruction; and, most recently he served the La Crosse, WI school district as its superintendent of schools. He has a strong leadership track record promoting choice and innovation via unique community partnerships. He currently serves RE@L, inc as its Director of Education.