Peer Pressure with New Gadgets – Worse Than Before?

As children develop their social skills, there is a strong urge to fit in with their peers. As they get older, this peer pressure opens them up to behaviors that are unhealthy or dangerous, such as smoking and drinking alcohol. However, not all peer pressure has to be physically harmful or dangerous to cause children distress.

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Not having the latest fashion item or toy can alienate kids and make them feel like they are not part of the “in” crowd.  However due to today’s smart devices and internet on the go, there is a new source of peer pressure that can cause children, especially older kids, to feel left out of the group. The smartphone is the latest must-have accessory required to fit in and be part of the establishment.

Years ago, the latest fad toy might be the source of a lot of peer pressure to fit in. In most cases, not having the toy caused some ridicule and possibly some bullying, but the fad quickly went away, only to be replaced by the next thing.

Even while the item was popular, it wasn’t all-encompassing. Usually, the toy only occupied a small amount of a group’s time and the kids without it were still able to get in plenty of time with the crowd. This is not so when it comes to smartphones and other electronic gadgets.

Due to the enormous number of apps available, these electronic fads never get old. One game or application may hold the top spot for a while, only to be replaced by the next great game to come along. What’s more is that these devices are totally immersive as well as being social.

Years ago, when kids played board games, anyone could come along and join in. Now, without the proper device, the child is totally left out. The electronic world of the game so fully occupies the users’ attention that kids not in the electronic world are simply non-existent.

For older kids in their teens, the lack of a smartphone or tablet can be even more devastating. While text messaging is still an important form of communication by teens, it’s no longer enough.

Simply to keep up with the latest gossip, one must have access to the most recent tweet, Facebook post, Instagram photo, Snapchat, etc. Without the means to do this, alienation is almost certainly guaranteed. For teens, the peer pressure to fit in is enormous, and being left out of the electronic communication loop is a sure way to not fit in.

While many parents are worried about allowing their children unsupervised access to the Internet, many more are not. If you choose to limit your child’s access to smartphones and other electronic gadgets, you must be aware of the unintended consequences and be on the lookout for their effects.

Once you decide to allow your child to have a smartphone or a tablet computer, it’s time to talk to them about the new types of peer pressure that will come along with having the device. Now that they are part of the larger group of smartphone users, they will be pressured to join tighter cliques that are doing certain things with the phones.

Many of these things are harmless kid fun, like the recent planking fad on Instagram, but others are less so. Perhaps the most common dangerous activity when it comes to teens is sexting (a PDF) and sending inappropriate pictures, especially with apps like Snapchat. Teens can be made to feel left out again if they don’t agree to do these things.

As parents know, from their own childhood experiences, peer pressure is a big part of being a kid. But the rapid rise of electronic devices and the important part they play in the lives of even young children is something new, potentially dangerous and much more pervasive than not having the latest Air Jordans.