The Telegraph
Wednesday , July 17 , 2013

Peer pressure leads to risky activities

Bhubaneswar, July 16: College is a great place to bond, but undue peer pressure often leads some youngsters to experiment with risky activities. Once caught in this web, most students don’t know how to escape from the trap.

Youngsters often indulge in drug abuse, smoking, binge drinking or crash diets. They do it simply out of curiosity, to flash a status symbol or as a sign of liberation.

Sometimes they fall pray to such risky activities even when they share a strong bond with the family, said sociologist Rita Ray.

“At a tender age, one is bound to get curious about forbidden things. Ask them not to do a certain thing and they will become all the more interested to do it. Strong willpower may restrain curiosity,” she said.

Ray said parents and educational institutions ought to handle vulnerable youngsters with care as fear and threats were no mechanism to deal with them.

“These days, parents do not have time for their wards. They hardly keep a tab on their children’s expenses. Schools and colleges exercise control but, they too, hardly care. The system has to be more caring and it should allow youngsters vent their anger and frustration. It has to make them aware of the dangers of drug use or smoking or drinking by constant interaction,” she said.

An occasional smoke or a peg of alcohol with friends is not harmful for youngsters, but they must ensure that it did not become a habit, said a teacher of Ramadevi Women’s College here.

“We all have a pre-conceived notion about everything and deem it our right to advise and instruct others. But as long as you personally think your activity is not morally wrong, you should not bother about being judged by others. However, as far as drugs are concerned, one has to be assertive and firmly say ‘no’,” said the teacher.

She expressed concern over the trend of indulging in size-zero diets and the risks associated with it.

“There has been a lot of debate over body image and the definition of beauty. But youngsters, especially girls, must understand that they have a different genetic construction and wearing yourself out by crash dieting may affect day-to-day functioning, including studies. Moreover, a beautiful face and a slim figure are but temporary,” she said, adding that cultivating a sense of unconditional self-regard was very important.

Psychology professor at Utkal University P.K. Rath also agreed that most youths succumbed to peer pressure owing to low self-esteem.

“We are hardly taught the value of respecting our own selves. Parents constantly compare their wards with their friends or cousins, which creates confusion in their mental make-up,” he said.

Rath suggested that youngsters must not allow others’ viewpoint to determine their life choices and self-confidence could help one steer clear of wayward activities.

“Most of us suffer from a complex that no one likes us for what we are. But then, you can’t be anyone but yourself,” the academic said.