Peer pressure is a particular influence that a peer group exerts onto another individual. This influence encourages these other individuals to change, or, to conform to the peer group’s attitudes, values, or behaviours.
Peer pressure is common and is a hallmark of child and adolescent experience. Nowadays, with the use of the Internet and most of all through social networks, peer pressure has taken a new form. Currently, children and adolescents do not only form part of a social group at school or outside of school, but also online. Through the use of chat rooms and communicative sites such as Skype, although physically remote, children are constantly interacting with peers, thus, still making them highly susceptible to peer pressure.
Private groups formed by peers on social networking sites may be an instigator for members to conform to the main idea of that particular group. An example of this is group chats, were one will find a number of friends communicating on a single chat log. This type of online chat may lead to what is termed as cyber bullying, which may in turn lead to online peer pressure. This form of pressure is instigated when a group of members feel compelled to conform to a particular idea or topic in a bid to feel part of that group, in this case identifying with the bully. This scenario often occurs as individuals within this particular group aim not to appear different due to fear of not being accepted.
Another situation common in schools is that arguments between children and young adolescents, which arise on the school playground, are continuing online. The use of chat logs and social networks is bridging the gap between school and home. They are not giving children and adolescents time to cool down, reflect and forget about the incident at school. Instead, this continuous interaction about some past incident is fueling those involved in the feud, to take it further instead overlooking or disregarding this issue.
Online popularity, within social networks, is another type of peer pressure currently gaining immense recognition. Today’s teenagers are tiring themselves out by being concerned over their online appearances. It has now become the norm for adolescents to keep up with their online peers. Common examples of this ongoing popularity race include; numbers of friends one has and how many likes a personal photo attracts. Keeping up with this “online pressure” can be tiring, particularly when school, homework and after school activities also have to be given importance. So, how can parents and educators support children and young adults when confronted with this pressure?
Education, which promotes self worth and positive relationships, in my opinion, is key. It provides children and adolescents with the necessary tools needed to combat the pressures met online. Formal and informal education allows these individuals to make rational online decisions and utilise the positive characteristics of the online world.