Saturday 10 December 2016

Schools can help develop positive peer pressure

Dr James O'Higgins Norman

Published 07/02/2014 | 02:30

The death of Jonny Byrne, who was buried yesterday, has been blamed on the Neknomination phenomenon
The death of Jonny Byrne, who was buried yesterday, has been blamed on the Neknomination phenomenon

Every parent and teacher in the country is aware of the effect of peer pressure on young people. In fact, it could be said that peer pressure is the trademark of adolescence. That is not to say that adults are not affected by peer pressure but unlike adults younger people seem to be particularly vulnerable to it.

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Some scientists have explained this by the fact that the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that governs decision making and empathy, is still developing in adolescence and early adulthood. In other words, young people are less well equipped to assess the influence of their actions. In the past the extent of peer pressure among young people seemed to be limited to experimenting with smoking cigarettes, alcohol and to a lesser extent sexual activity.

However, the advent of social media over the last 10 years has increased the extent and expression of peer pressure among young people resulting in problems such as cyber-bullying and neknomination. In the case of cyber-bullying the research shows that tensions and conflicts that occur among young people in school spill over into social media where they take on new levels of exposure and significance for those affected.

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