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Peer pressure and media influence – keeping up with young people

Peer pressure and media influence – keeping up with young people

Your child is growing up fast, and no doubt, has different role models and influences to the ones you had growing up. Use our action checklist to talk to them about the differences, and bridge the generation gap.

Young people face intense pressure as they embark on the path to adulthood. It seems they're encouraged to wear makeup, dress in the latest fashions and even appear ‘sexy’ at an increasingly younger age. Everyone's in a hurry to grow up, and experience is currency. Keeping up with it all can feel pretty daunting – for your child and for you. 

Changing times change our relationships

Mum Emma initially struggled to understand daughter Olivia's attitude. She found Olivia cheekier than she had ever been with her own mother.

“I found myself getting annoyed that Olivia didn’t have the same respect I had for my mum when I was growing up,” she explains. “But, over time, I realised that her cheekiness showed a closeness that I didn’t have with Mum. Olivia feels more relaxed with me so she can express herself differently – and she lives in a different world to the one I grew up in. Once I accepted that, it felt like we started communicating so much better.”

Take time to understand your child’s world

Body image campaigner and expert Jess Weiner, says this is a common feeling for mums. “Rather than fighting the world that your daughter lives in, try to embrace and understand it. Watch her favourite TV shows or browse some of her favourite magazines together and find out why she likes them. At the same time, make sure you share your own world with her, your likes and dislikes. You are laying the foundations of your adult relationship together. Understanding, trusting and supporting each other requires both of you to listen and share.”

Think about your mother daughter relationship

It can help to cast your mind back to when you were your child’s age – that bewildering period when your body was a stranger to you, you'd started a new school, and your first love had broken your heart – an endless, heady cocktail of confusion, elation, frustration and amazement.

What were your relationships with significant women in your life like during that time? Did your mum, aunt or grandma offer the support you needed? Are there things you’d like to do differently now it’s your turn to offer that support?

Body image and the media

Consuming media, and having a social life online, is unlikely to feel optional for a young person today – it's more an unquestioned reality. They’re not likely to be daunted by it, but might not be aware of the pressure it's placing on them. “The media is desensitising a whole generation to the meaning of privacy – everything is recorded, photographed, uploaded, shared and commented on,” explains Weiner.

Scantily clad celebrities with dysfunctional relationships – which they discuss in front of millions of strangers on Twitter – are the new role models. The uncomfortable in our skin: the body-image report🔗, found that young girls today are bombarded with up to 5,000 digitally enhanced images a week that suggest how they should look. Consider the impact of this on their body image and self-esteem.

Build a bridge of communication

To help your child cope, first accept and try to understand the different influences and pressures in their life compared to your own generation, then open communication. Simply starting a conversation with them will show you’re interested.

“The more open your attitude, and the more interest you take in her world, the more likely she is to open up to you,” says Weiner. “She needs unconditional support from you, as you’re the most important and most constant role model in her life.”

To protect privacy we've changed the names of people whose stories we tell on these pages, but the stories are genuine.

Want to get closer to your child? Use our checklist for ideas.

  • 1

    What’s their favourite TV show?

    Watch their favourite programme or film together and find out why they like it so much

  • 2

    What do they like to read?

    Borrow their magazines, and look at the images and words. How do you think they make them feel? Are they comparing themselves to those pictures? 

  • 3

    Who are their favourite music artists?

    Listen to their latest downloads and focus on the lyrics. How might they identify with them? 

  • 4

    What are they sharing and enjoying online?

    Pay discreet attention to their social media profiles. Use them to understand what makes them tick, rather than to check up on their updates – for example, who do they follow on Twitter or Instagram? These could be key to how they’re thinking and feeling

next steps

  • Share the Spot the Fakes activity with your child – it’s a great way to start talking and sharing your thoughts with each other, about how the media influences young people
  • Keep the lines of conversation open so they can always talk about how they’re feeling. Try reading our article How to talk to young people in a language they understand
  • Ask about the things they’re doing and enjoying with an open mind – don’t start by saying, “what’s this rubbish?”
  • Were there things that separated you and your parents when you were growing up? Why not tell your child about them? 
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