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Peer Pressure: Competing for Your Child's Attention

Group of teens

​ "Everyone's cutting their last class today. You're in, aren't you?"

   "Let's punk Julie on Facebook. What should we say about her?"

"Your mom and dad are gone. They'll never know you took the car out....

Peer pressure. The v​ery words make most parents cringe. The influence of children's friends and classmates is a powerful force in almost every child's life. Kids face this pressure from the first time they play with other children. And with all of the social media and electronic communication available to kids today, peer pressure casts an even wider shadow for tweens and teens.

You can't make peer pressure go away; it is a natural part of growing up. But as a parent, you can help your child learn how to deal with it.

Peer pressure isn't all bad. Although the term usually conjures up negative images, your children's friends can also be positive influences. Friends can encourage one another to do good things, to try harder in extracurricular activities or schoolwork, and to avoid kids who might not have their best interest at heart. In this way, peer pressure is very healthy.

However, there is a darker side to peer pressure. Teens and tweens may find themselves in any number of situations that could lead to big trouble. The availability of drugs and alcohol and the lure of gangs and permissive sex are just some of the major concerns parents have today. And peer pressure doesn't have to come from face-to-face contact among young people; cell phones, Facebook, blogs, Twitter and other social media make it possible for kids to ratchet up and spread ideas for mischief and mayhem to a lot of people in a matter of seconds.

As a parent, the best thing you can do to counteract the negative effects of peer pressure is to keep the lines of communication open with your child and to be a bigger and more positive influence in their lives than their friends and peers. That's a tall order, but by staying in touch with what's happening in your child's life and providing ongoing direction and guidance, you can help your child stay on a positive course.

If you need additional advice on helping your child deal with peer pressure, you can call the toll-free Boys Town National Hotline® at 1-800-448-3000. Trained Hotline counselors are on duty 24/7 year round to provide advice and referrals to helpful resources, or emergency assistance. Your child also can call the Hotline to talk about the pressures and temptations he or she may be facing. ​