Peer Pressure

"A real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." Reading the variety of responses in regards to some of the pressures that are placed on teenagers - especially girls, I was saddened by the emotional and physical traumas that these incredibly strong girls have had to deal with, yet I was also inspired; inspired because every single one of them came out of their tribulations, emotionally stronger, and having learnt a valuable lesson that will no doubt assist them in the future.

The first question that needs to be asked when looking at this very sensitive, complex area of a teenager's life, is why; Why we as female adolescents, in an era in which we have so many rights and opportunities as well as an independence that has seldom, if ever, been seen in the past, are finding ourselves being coerced into situations that we usually know are wrong or dangerous, yet are still able to succumb to the persuasion and pressure of those around us? Whether the pressure is to have sex with 'Mr. Right-Now', or to smoke a joint 'just to relax', peer pressure is becoming more prevalent within today's youth because we, as a generation, are extremely dependant on our friends. Friends are our diaries in which we can spill all of our secrets and emotions into, they can be the wise, comforting voices inside our heads when we are facing one of life's many harsh instances and they can provide a home-away-from-home when family life sometimes gets unbearable. Nevertheless, it is these positive influences, support and acceptance they provide that make it just that little bit easier to be pressured by them. Suddenly the question of 'if everyone else is doing it, then why shouldn't I?' begins to plague us, as the acceptance we used to have from our friends begins to dwindle and our desire for approval begins to grow. The very morals and principles that we have prided ourselves no longer empower us and give us strength from within; rather they are overshadowed and pushed aside by our need to be 'accepted'.

Binge drinking, smoking, taking drugs and underage sexual activity are becoming alarmingly widespread in today's adolescents mainly because of this desire to be accepted. Many teenagers find themselves at parties or gatherings where it seems to be the norm to drink a few too many 'Bacardi Breezers' or when a few more gulps of 'Scotch' shouldn't harm us. The dangers of drinking are not unfamiliar to teenagers, yet they all seem to be miraculously forgotten when we need just that little bit more confidence to get the cute guy in the corner's attention, or when everyone else is just sitting around sculling bottles full of Vodka. Amazingly, the dangers of smoking, drug-use as well as the many risks associated with unsafe sexual activity, are also well known. Most schools, parents and even sometimes the media, are constantly repeating the obvious dangers that popping an 'X' at a rave, or smoking a joint daily can pose, as well as the extreme risks of STI's that can be transmitted and unwanted pregnancies that may eventuate from sexual activity if the right precautions aren't taken.

The problem is generally not that we haven't been educated from a young age. Upon entering the final years at primary school and even the first year or so at secondary school, we participate in numerous programs and initiatives to educate students about peer pressure and the demands that we will have to face during our adolescence. These continue all throughout secondary school and yet the age in which teenagers are beginning to experiment in drugs, drinking and sexual activity are startlingly decreasing to around 12 or 13 years of age. We are seeing that even in junior year levels at secondary school, the peer pressure to have a couple of Cruisers that got smuggled into Jenny's 13th birthday party, or to 'just try' a joint to see what it's like are becoming worryingly frequent.

Although there is not one answer or solution to dealing with peer pressure, there are things, which we can ask ourselves before putting ourselves in situations in which we may harm ourselves physically and/or emotionally, or others around us - such as our family. Why am I doing this? Is it for me or for this guy? Or is it for my friends, because I'm scared of standing up for what I believe in and risk losing them? Unless you truly believe, deep down, that you are doing something for you, and for no one else, then stop and remember that you are an individual who has the right to stand up for what you believe in, be comfortable within your group of friends and who doesn't have to do anything that you don't want to do that may endanger you or harm you.

Always have enough money or a way of contacting parents, guardians an older brother or sister when you are going out to parties and other outings because you never know when a situation may arise that you are not comfortable with. Simply ring your parent, guardian, sibling or a trusted older friend and ask them to pick you up - and if this isn't possible, catch a cab home. Don't be worried about what people are going to say because firstly, they probably won't notice, but if they do and make a big deal out of it later on, (sorry to use the old cliché) if they are true friends then they will accept you for who you are and not vindicate you for being a strong individual. They should accept your beliefs, morals, personality and the things you will and won't stand for. There are people out there who would appreciate you for more than whether you slept with your boyfriend of 3 months or if you got 'totally trashed' at Tracey's 18th birthday, and these are the people that you need to find through socializing and expanding your horizons. Join a club outside of school and get out there to meet people who have similar interests to you; discover new areas of life and new people to be around, who accept you for who you are.

Still, there is one more person that you need find in all of this, yourself. These years of adolescence are about self-discovery, not your tolerance to alcohol or how many joints you can smoke before throwing up. Remember that people, who are willing to judge and exclude you for standing up for yourself now, are not long term friends. They will never provide you with the true friendship and support that you require while developing and maturing, nor will they allow you to reach your full potential as a friend, as a student and as a person.

by Natalie Devitsakis


Any child could become a victim of teenage drug abuse which is why parents are encouraged to educate their kids about the dangers of drug addiction.


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READERS VOICE
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I'd say that peer pressure affected me in the same way that it does most girls. At 16 I was not ready to lose my virginity, I didn't have a steady boyfriend, I had little confidence in myself & I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All my friends were having sex. They acted as if losing your virginity was no big deal. It is! Trust me!

I now know that I lost my virginity to the WRONG guy! He was a sleaze & I was just another girl to him. I guess I thought that he would like me if I slept with him, it didn't work. Save yourself for MR RIGHT girls... he is around somewhere! I don't mean save yourself for marriage! Just save yourself for someone that you care about & shares the same feelings!

I met my current boyfriend at 17 & have been with him for 4 years. I wish that I had saved myself for him. Sure I would have lacked experience - but that doesn't matter when the person is right.

Fi



When I was in year 9, my friends pressured me into smoking marijuana or "pot". I really didn't want to but I thought life is short, and I gave into peer pressure. The first time, I suddenly spaced out and got high. I didn't know what to do, I wanted to beat people up. I hated it, but I kept on trying it whenever we were at parties.

After a few months, my school grades dropped and my health degraded. One morning, I had a wake up call and decided to not hang around these friends. I knew after this whole experience with pot, I would not give in to peer pressure again. My experience helped me realize what not to do.

Even though I had felt the peer pressure, it was still my choice. I"ve changed my whole concept on doing anything, drinking, smoking or having sex. Now when someone asks me to do something, I think about the consequences first. My experience was bad, but I've learned from it. There were six people in the group, four finished high school in year 10, and are typical "drop outs", one committed suicide and the other is in boarding school. I am currently in year 12.

Drugs, smoking and binge drinking are just ways to escape without actually escaping. They are all stupid and pointless. People need to be more comfortable in who they are.

Simone



When I was in high school peer pressure made me feel left out. My friends would all go out clubbing at over age clubs but I wasn't allowed. They made me feel like I had missed out on the best night ever, and would talk about their experience all week. I would have nothing to talk about because everything centered on 'that night'. Then they would ask me why I wasn't saying anything and I would tell them that I have nothing to say. Sometimes I felt like they wouldn't even notice if I walked away, but I never did I would sit and listen to them.

Jenny



When I was at school Peer Pressure played a big part in my life, and for that reason I am now glad that my parents would hardly ever let me go out with my 'friends.' They all started drinking and having sex when we were 13…. they'd succumbed to peer pressure themselves, and I was even an outsider within my group of friends until I lost my virginity at 15 and I was 'welcomed' back into their 'elite' circle.

I hated my parents when I was growing up for being so protective and not allowing me to 'mix' with my friends and having to call their parents when I stayed at their houses etc etc, but now when I look back on it I am so happy that they didn't allow me to be just another sheep in the flock.

Emma



In my 1st year at high school I had a very fashionable hairstyle (for that era), unfortunately the girls in year 12 were very jealous of this and I was bullied constantly by these girls 5-6years older then me. They would threaten me by pulling my hair and holding scissors up to me. I went to a very rough all girls' high school.

I would try to ignore them, but all of them were of large stature, where I was very petite. My other problem I was being bullied at home by my Stepfather, so the constant badgering eventually made me change my hair. It's an unfortunate thing that this kind of thing has to go on, it also saddens me greatly that I was treated like this when I had enough problems on my plate.

When I reached year 12 I made friends with many of the year 7's and they would look up to me as a big sister and quite often come to me in troubled times. My Philosophy has always been, "What goes around, comes around!"

Evelyn



I was sent to a girl's school instead of the local high school where all my friends went with "my parents best interests in mind". Little did they realize that being as shy and self conscious as I was it could destroy my life and that I would follow anyone I met who would be willing to be my friend.

In year 7, I didn't know anyone and clung to the first friend I made, she introduced me to boys, although a lot of boys liked me I was very well behaved and did the right thing not really knowing anything different. But because I had so many male friends I was automatically labeled a SLUT by every other girl in the school. Throughout year 7 till year 10 I struggled to prove who I was and be myself and by year 10.... I did not have 1 enemy in the whole school.... I could walk any where and hold my head up high knowing people liked me for who I was, the friendly girl who did never grudge or listen to story's that I didn't know were fact or fiction.

I befriended everyone and said hello to anyone, I never listened to gossip and sometimes I lost friends because of who I was or became but I soon realized that the friends I made were more important than the ones I lost. But in year 10 a new girl came to the school and in my attempt to help her " fit in " she some how managed to pursued me to jig classes and then start drinking while skipping classes until the point where I was only at school for probably less than half of the time. Anyway I left school, had a baby at 16 and kept her as my best friend for 6 years while I watched her destroy her life, and mine by stealing my husband from under my nose, when I took her in off the streets after she was kicked out. I have had so much pain and heartache in my life with relationships and I do believe a lot of it was because of peer pressure and rebelling from my parents while at school....

I look at my little girl now and see the bullying she has had to deal with and it makes me so sad that I can't help her. She is so much more outgoing than me but things came to a head and she has changed schools. I hope my story can help someone in some way....

Rebecca



I was not particularly clever but I worked really hard a school and did well. I copped a hard time for this and was often teased to the point of getting my hair pulled, my school uniform ripped, my books stolen etc. I was a shy kid too afraid to fight back or worry my parents with what was going on. Fortunately my love of learning did not let me drop out and I went on to university where I have a great group of friends who support me and I have learnt to stand up for myself. I'm glad I did not let peer pressure ruin this opportunity for me and only wish that in state schools peer pressure would not discourage hard work and education.

Nancee


If you are concerned that your child may be using drugs, learn about the signs of drug use.
 

 
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