Peer pressure has always been a part of childhood and has always been a challenge for parents to deal with. However, now that there is a digital aspect to the way children of all ages communicate, peer pressure has a whole new dimension. Parents can understandably feel very concerned about the pressure that their child feels about ‘fitting in’ where technology is concerned, children can feel strongly that they need to be on social networking sites and or constantly responding to messages. This is certainly a lot of pressure, even for an adult not to mention a child! So, how can you support your child in dealing with the pressures associated with the digital world?

The first thing to remember is that peer pressure is a very normal part of growing up. Adolescents in particular feel peer pressure more acutely as they are very keen to do what their friends do, along with pushing the boundaries and wanting more independence and autonomy. Think back to your own childhood and it is likely that you also experienced peer pressure, most likely minus the technology!  More than likely your child has already experienced peer pressure before they were even aware of social media. Having conversations as early as possible about what is important within your own family, i.e. if you have some rules about screentime in your house, talk to your child about why you have those in place. It is likely that your child may let you know that in a friends house there are different rules and expectations. Being open in your communication is a great first step in helping your child to deal with peer pressure.

Helping your child to develop talents and engage in hobbies that do not involve technology is also a good way to help your child see that there is life away from social networking and digital devices. There can be a tendency for children to get very caught up in the initial excitement of things like messaging apps, but like everything the gloss can quickly wear off and the pressure to take part and respond to something like group messaging, can grow. It is very easy to get sucked in to the group think that is part of social networking. Developing new skills, talents and friendships away from technology will also help your child’s self esteem and confidence, which will have a knock on positive effect on how they deal with peer pressure.

Talk to your child about the content that they see online. Remind them that what they are seeing is only a very small snapshot of a person’s life. Part of the pressure that children can feel is that everyone else is always online, that their parents are far stricter than their friends’ parents and/or that their friends are allowed a lot more freedoms than them. As with social media itself, the reality can be very different than the perception where this is concerned; explain to your child that while they  may feel that their friends have more freedom online than them, in reality that may not be the case. It is a good idea to stay linked in with other parents and discuss with them the ways they deal with peer pressure, particularly in relation to excessive internet use and social networking. Peer support can be very helpful for parents, especially when it comes to the challenges of digital parenting.

Undoubtedly, self confidence, an informed attitude towards staying safe online and a healthy balance in the use of technology, will all help your child to deal with peer pressure in the digital world.