Overcoming Peer Pressure
by Tony Bylsma, Executive Director
Narconon Drug Prevention & Education California
Proofing Kids Against Peer Pressure
For a teenager who is heading to a party where it's a sure thing that there are going to be decisions to make concerning drugs, or for a single mother whose co-workers are coaxing her to stop off with them on the way home for just one drink, ("After all, it's Friday!"), peer pressure is a very real thing.
According to Webster's dictionary, peers are persons of the same rank, social position or ability. Pressure is a compelling influence or force.
Peer pressure is blamed for much of the ills of today's youth. But like many other things, peer pressure has a good and a bad side. It's not necessarily a bad thing. It can make a difference in how well a school performs or determine the amount of charitable donations a community gives. It can actually keep individuals and groups operating in a good, pro-survival direction.
However, it can also influence a child to cut classes, belittle a fellow student or try a drug. It's what is happening when one person tries to fit in and as a result does something he or she might not have done if alone, just to remain or become a member of a group.
Resisting negative peer pressure is a matter of personal control and responsibility. But it isn't possible to really control something about which you know little or nothing (try flying a space shuttle without any training!). Likewise, you can't very well be responsible for a thing you cannot control. So what is the key?
Knowledge is the key. If you increase knowledge on a subject, you simultaneously raise a person's ability to act responsibly and to be in control in that sphere.
In the end, that is the only way we'll ever win the fight to save our society from the scourge of drugs. We've got to ensure that the truth about drugs is well known and understood from a very young age.
For a young person making a decision about whether or not to try marijuana for the first time, factual information about that drug will give the ability to make a decision that is responsible. We need to stress the word factual.
With television, movies and the internet, it is no longer possible to completely monitor the data that a child receives. On the internet alone, there are thousands of sources of information about drugs that are strictly there to promote their use. So, left to his own devices, a kid can easily be led into the belief that drugs are harmless or even desirable. So we must ensure that true information is given and that he or she really understands it.
And it doesn't work for someone else to have the knowledge. In other words, telling a kid, "I have intimate knowledge on this subject of drugs and therefore you will behave responsibly and not take them!" is NOT effective. It may even have the reverse effect and cause him to rebel by doing that exact thing. Doing that to a kid is one of the best ways to teach him that his decisions are not his own and that someone else can decide his fate. The net result of that is to make him less responsible and actually more susceptible to peer pressure.
A decision that a person makes on his own is much more lasting. We often get responses from students saying, "I've always been told to not use drugs, but now I know why, so I'm not going to use them."
We would consider parents negligent if they didn't teach their children about the dangers of traffic, but most parents don't educate their kids about drugs. The fact is that a young person has a greater chance of being injured by drugs than being hit by a car.
In the task of drug education it is imperative that information is given in a way that doesn't accuse or make the students wrong. We want them to learn true data and thus be able to step up to responsibility, not shy away from the subject. Scare tactics have been used for decades and the statistics of drug abuse and drug related crime have continued to soar.
In Narconon® drug education, we carefully avoid shocking pictures and anecdotes in our presentations to students, whether in the third grade or in college classes. A frightened person is not a strong person.
Our job is to ensure that young people have the correct knowledge and know that it is correct. Only then will they be above the reach of peer pressure where drugs are concerned."
Narconon California's Drug Prevention and Education website is www.drug-prevention.org.