Saying “no” to sex, drugs and or alcohol can be a difficult choice. With the increased reach of mass-media, advertising and the Internet, it can be harder than ever for underage teenagers not to succumb to the lure of these pleasures.
It is no surprise that teenagers indulge in these activities, nor is it a surprise that they face tremendous peer pressure to indulge. According to writer Hallie Bourne, “Peers are the individuals with whom a child or adolescent identifies, who are usually but not always of the same age-group. Peer pressure occurs when the individual experiences implicit or explicit persuasion, sometimes amounting to coercion, to adopt similar values, beliefs, and goals, or to participate in the same activities as those in the peer group.”
Teenagers are at a very critical time in their development. They are rebelling against their parents, which is essentially a normal way for them to cut ties with their families and move on and start families and lives of their own. But at the same time, teenagers express a very real need to fit in and to find acceptance. Teenagers are also usually emotionally immature and lack the psychological resources and development to deal with unpleasant emotions such as anger, fear, and loneliness--all of which abound during the teenage years. Indulging in underage sex, drugs and alcohol neatly fills all these needs.
One reason why teenagers often fall victim to peer pressure is a lack of communication and discussion at home about taboo subjects such as drugs, sex, and alcohol. As evidenced by the moderate consumption of alcohol by teens in France, making taboo subjects and substances less taboo by discussing them and learning the meaning of moderation can also make these items seem less forbidden.
While parents must instill a strong foundation of morals in their children from an early age, the responsibility and final choices will ultimately lie with the teenagers. But at the same time, advertisers must also bear some of the responsibility. They should not use sex, or at least should not feature underage-looking models, to sell their products. They should not make alcohol or cigarettes seem so glamourous. Only when all of these pieces of the puzzle achieve a balance can a teenager make the right decisions.
And at the same time, everyone must comprehend the power of peer pressure and try to use it to a positive way. As Hallie Bourne writes, “Although it is usually conceived of as primarily a negative influence acting on adolescents or teens, peer pressure can be a positive influence as well, and it can act on children at any age, depending on their level of contact with others.