Has the Lockdown Broken the Death Grip of Teenage Peer Pressure?
If it has, it would be perversely ironic. Read why I think so in this week’s edition of “Isn’t That Ironic?”.
With no school, no organized sports, and teenagers spending more time with their families, is there a reduction in peer pressure? I hope so. As a teacher I see teenage peer pressure having a huge and largely negative influence on adolescents.
What we call adolescent rebellion and the unnaturally overbearing pressure of teenage peers is not a universal phenomenon. It doesn’t happen in every society. Harvard psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein (1) has studied dozens of cultures around the world, from primitive to advanced, and has come to some interesting conclusions. He says there are two reasons for teenage rebellion and two reasons only.
1. Teenagers are not given enough responsibility.
2. Teenagers are kept in peer groupings and are starved of the necessary multi age-group social environment.
I’ll just touch on the number two, for now, the lack of an age-balanced social framework for kids. “Isolated from adults, American teens learn everything they know from their media-dominated peers, the last people on earth they should be learning from," says Epstein.
When I grew up we had a lot of neighborhood activities with a mixed age of participants: street hockey, neighborhood soccer and football, kick the can, raiding gardens (OK, that wasn’t a very nice thing to do). Older kids got to practice parenting and coaching skills with the younger kids. Younger kids would get a dose of wisdom from their older neighbors, or a dose of humility when they got too big for their britches.
Somewhere in the 1990s, hand-held video games came along and the kids stayed inside. The streets and parks become almost deserted. Kids almost never play outside in neighborhood groups anymore. Until the past month. I see a few more kids out, albeit only two or three at a time.
Our species evolved living in family groups. Modern society has weakened families almost beyond recognition. Maybe, just maybe, this murderous virus has forced families together like nobody alive has seen. How ironic—that it might take a disaster to force a healthier way of life on society. But so often, in both our personal lives and our societies, it takes a crisis for us to come to our senses.
I’ve written in other recent blogs about the “silver lining” in this dark corona-cloud. Maybe we will come out of this with stronger families, healthier relationships, and more emotionally balanced adolescents. Here’s hoping!
God Bless You!
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1The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen; Robert Epstein; Quill Driver Books, 2007.