Online peer pressure
Advice for Parents & Carers
Learn how peer pressure can influence your child’s behaviour on and offline and ways to build their critical thinking to look out for positive influences on their online lives.
What you need to know:
- Making friends, fitting-in and feeling like you belong can be a daily challenge for young people but even more so for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND)
- They may lack the social skills to interact with others in the real world so, socialising online offers a safer place to build those relationships. While this is a good thing, it can also present challenges
- Social media and gaming can offer young people a place to find their tribe and connect with others who have shared interests helping them feel less lonely or isolated
Taking risks to feel accepted
The changing nature of social norms online and their increased need to feel part of the group can push them to take risks online that they otherwise wouldn’t.
This could be feeling pressured to take part in a prank and posting it on social media for all to see, sending a nude to someone they may like, to show they’re really interested or taking part in cyberbullying.
As well as this, young people may actively chase likes and followers to prove to others that they are popular and well-liked without a clear understanding of how this might put them at risk.
Power of positive peer pressure
Starting early and talking to them about what is and isn’t acceptable online to help guide the decision they make is key. Often having a set of rules that they are reminded of and can stick to can help deter them from feeling the need to take on these risks.
However, it’s equally as important to seek to understand why they may feel the need to take risks and find ways to redirect their behaviour towards something more positive.
What is the impact on young people?
Being part of a group that encourages anti-social behaviour can negatively impact children’s perception of what is also acceptable offline.
If a child feels pressured to send a nude to show their commitment in a relationship or their image is shared after a break-up, this can create anxiety and stress.
The pressure to be accepted into a group of friends may make your child feel they have to do what is asked of them. This may be humiliating and is often for the ‘entertainment’ of the other people in the group who are not genuine friends.
Although some online challenges are harmless and can be done to raise money for a good cause, others that encourage them to put themselves at risk for ‘a laugh’ can go wrong and affect their physical health.
Research shows that more young people are seeing online content promoting hatred, racism, and sites encouraging anorexia. As children with SEND are more influenced by what they see online, there is a risk that they can be led to adopting values that can affect their behaviour and sense of self.
Conversation to have to support them
Create clear rules about what they should and shouldn’t do online. Using a family agreement could help. You could also print it out and put it in places where they use devices to make sure they remember what they are. Add rules to their ‘I have agreed…’ card
Help them recognise when they feel pressured into doing something (i.e. fear of being humiliated, losing a friendship, being isolated, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out))
Help them feel confident about saying no if they are asked to do something that puts them or others at risk
Help them understand that it’s important not to take everything at face value and that it’s important to challenge, check and question things that seem too good to be true or may put them or others at risk
If they can’t talk to you, make sure they are aware of organisations they can speak to for guidance, i.e. Childline or a trusted adult (sibling, aunt, uncle, family friend)
- Talk about your own experience to show that it’s nothing new, it’s just experienced differently
- Challenge myths
- Dispel online myths that may cause your child to feel pressured to do something they’re not ready for
- Tell them that it’s okay to unfriend someone online if they feel threatened as the person will not receive a notification that they have been removed
- Although a lot of people are talking about sending nudes, a very small number of young people are actually doing it
- Make sure they understand that creating or sending a nude image of a young person under 18 is against the law