Learn the Truth Behind Teen Peer Pressure Challenges

Learn the Truth Behind Teen Peer Pressure Challenges

Learn the Truth Behind Teen Peer Pressure Challenges

Your sweet little toddler has grown up. Suddenly you’re not talking as much as you used to and you aren’t sure what’s going on. Who is she spending time with? Where is he going?

During the teen years, parents need to be pay extra attention to their kids’ activities. If you think your teen may be using drugs or alcohol, or participating in dangerous challenges, talk with them. Tell them what you’ve observed, ask questions, and listen.

Most importantly, educate yourself to understand the pressures teens face today. By understanding the landscape, you can help your child make smarter decisions and healthier choices. Here’s an overview of some to help you get started.

Pressure to Drink and Smoke

Peer pressure to try cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs is nothing new. Still, it’s worrisome. Most adolescents who abuse drugs or alcohol start using those substances due to peer pressure. Nearly 90 percent of cigarette smokers say they first tried smoking by 18. leaving site icon The latest available stats for underage drinking leaving site icon reveal that 7.4 million young people 12 to 20 years old report drinking alcohol in the past. This number includes 4.5 million who are binge drinkers, and 932,000 who say they are heavy drinkers.

Peer Pressure in the Social Media Age

Through social media, dangerous trends can spread quickly. Teens may view and post videos of harmful physical “challenges” online. Social media can also lead to peer pressure to participate in cyberbullying and online shaming if someone doesn’t complete a dare. 

Peer Challenges
Not only do these challenges encourage risky behavior, they may lead to other more dangerous behaviors like frequent sexual activity and substance use. Here are four popular games and challenges you need to know about:

  • Choking game. Participants are choked in an effort to achieve a “high” feeling. It can lead to serious injury and death. Signs that your child could be involved in the “game” include unexplained bruising or red marks on the throat or frequent headaches. Check to make sure they aren’t covering marks with high-necked clothing.
  • NekNominate. In this online challenge, individuals rapidly consume alcohol and post the video on social media sites. They then nominate another person to drink even more or to consume a more extreme mixture. Sometimes the mixtures contain bizarre and dangerous ingredients such as eggs, insects and motor oil. 
  • Ice and salt challenge. Participants sprinkle salt on their skin and press an ice cube into the salt. The “winner” is the teen who’s able to keep the ice on their skin the longest. The combination of salt and ice can lower the temperature of the skin and tissues and cause severe frostbite. Look for purple or reddish marks on the palm of your child’s hand.
  • Eraser challenge. Participants rub a pencil eraser against their skin to see who can withstand the pain the longest. The friction can create burns that may lead to tissue loss or scarring. Watch for eraser-sized burns on the back of your child’s non-dominant hand or wrist.

Need someone who isn’t in your family to discuss difficult topics with your teen? Schedule an annual wellness visit with your child’s pediatrician. This is an opportunity for your teen’s doctor to discuss risky behaviors and the consequences of engaging in harmful activities. 

Have you successfully navigated a tough conversation with your teen? Help your fellow parents by posting ice breakers in the comments!

Sources: Youth Initiatives, leaving site icon Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, 2021; Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, leaving site icon Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2017; What Is the Impact of Online Shaming and Cyberbullying?, leaving site icon The Jerusalem Post, 2020; 18 Crazy YouTube Challenges Kids Are Doing, leaving site icon Today’s Parent, 2020; Teen Won’t Survive After Trying Viral ‘Choking Game’, leaving site icon New York Post, 2019.

Originally published 1/18/2016; Revised 2021