Awareness of “Virtual” Peer Pressure: Reducing Negative Peer Pressure for School Age Children

by Dr. Marian C. Fritzemeier, Ed.D. © 2013victoria-and-the-laptop-1019022-m

Another parenting tip for helping reduce negative peer pressure for school age children is to become aware of “virtual” peer pressure and intervene early. A few months ago when I prepared this material for a group of school age parents in Ceres, California, I became distraught about the potential negative consequences of technology.

Everyone Knows

“Children can reject and blackmail others, encourage hate groups and ostracize others instantly. In the past, only your child’s class knew if he was ostracized, today, with Facebook, everyone knows, everyone can see it and everyone reads it right now.” (1)

Collecting “Likes”

Just as financial numbers equal power for some adults, popularity numbers are powerful for various school age children. “Children collect friends and ‘likes’ to demonstrate their popularity and influence–which can be used to pressure peers with a few keystrokes.

A Bully’s Power

Behind a screen, a bully has power.” (1) Bullying has expanded way beyond the school walls. I can’t count the number of television programs and movies I’ve watched about cyber bullying. Children can view so many negative comments and hatred online that it is easy for them to believe that saying things like this is okay. It eventually normalizes “bad” behavior. (1) And this bad behavior gains attention.

Using Technology

So as parents, do we prohibit our children from using the Internet? Some parents do, but the benefits of correctly using technology far outweigh the negatives. Here are five simple ways parents can help protect their children online.

Ways to Protect Online

  •  Connect to your children’s accounts immediately. Control their passwords. Don’t be passive. If you begin monitoring when they’re young, they’ll get used to it.
  • Keep computers in the family living areas where people are around. This helps remind you and your children that you are monitoring their activity. Role model this open accountability standard by using your computer in the same way.
  • Teach your child to use the computer correctly. There are so many fun options for them, keep them busy with learning activities.
  • Periodically check the search bar and view the site history and cache. Teach them what is acceptable and unacceptable for your family. What are warning signs that they are heading towards “dangerous ground”? Here’s one potential warning sign: The cache is empty when you view it!
  • Install a family-friendly software program that helps monitor your Internet. There are many available, even free programs. Consider using a program that reports all activity via email, rather than one that simply blocks certain words.

Feedback

If you’ve used software programs for internet safety, please post your results: good, bad, or otherwise. This can be helpful for other parents.

Source:

1. Peer Pressure: Why it seems worse than ever and how to help kids resist it, Malia Jacobson, August 29, 2013, www.parentmap.com. Accessed 10/5/2013.

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