I guess that by this time all high schools and schools of higher learning have finished their exams and students are out on vacation.
Vacation is a time to enjoy after weeks of hard work put in preparing for the final exams. But unfortunately it is also a time when teenagers, i.e. students of high school or early university have ample free time on their hands.
Much of this time is spent in company of other teenagers and that is when many problems arise due to peer pressure.
Teenagers do many things knowing fully well that it is wrong and harmful but under pressure of their friends, they go ahead. Many of these things are harmful for their health and are also a frivolous waste of one’s precious time.
I received a young boy of about 17 years whose only problem was that he was not able to do, “sex”. I tried to tell him that he was quite young for such sort of problems and should not bother about it.
But he did not seem to be convinced. Obviously he could have been discussing sex with his friends and could have been under pressure to “perform”.
Many studies show adolescents and teenagers to indulge in activities harmful for their health under pressure of their age mates. Sex, particularly unprotected, is one of them.
It leads to much health related problems. Unwanted pregnancy, illegal abortion under septic conditions, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS all occur due to ignorance and unprotected sexual intercourse.
Many teenagers take up smoking and drinking alcohol at this stage just to be at par with their friends and find it difficult to give up later because of getting addicted.
Intake of habit forming drugs like marijuana, cocaine, and opium is a habit some teenagers start but then they are unable to quit and suffer physically, mentally as well as financially due to these drugs at a later age.
Another kind of peer pressure teenagers face is regarding the external appearance of their bodies. Girls at this age are extremely conscious of their figures. T.V. depicting pencil thin models and the various beauty contests are partly responsible for this.
To obtain such slim and trim figures they often indulge in crash dieting which is harmful for their overall nutritional status and health.
Boys want to build muscles like the film stars they see on screen. Little do these youngsters realize that every individual has a different body composition depending on genetics, height, weight, muscle mass, bone density, e.t.c factors.
Correct diet and level of exercise also influence the body build or figure. Therefore one should aim at keeping his/her body healthy but not try to be a clone of another person.
Acne and pimples are another presumed problem of teenagers which is much discussed among them. Extensive marketing by cosmetic companies and pharmaceuticals producing anti acne creams adds on the hype to obtain a,” clear” complexion. Actually acne and pimples are due to hormonal effect in the body and subside spontaneously after 8 to 10 years, i.e. by the time one is a full grown adult.
Teenagers should understand that a face on a healthy youthful body has an inherent glow of its own which has absolutely no need of cosmetics.
If we look at the root of these problems, a changing society and values are largely responsible for it. About 50, 60 years ago, teenagers had much interaction with elders in the family, where they were transformed from children into responsible adults as per the traditions and culture.
Now children are left on their own and have greater interaction with their contemporary mates.
For example being in boarding schools, they are away with their friends for far greater time than they would be spending at home.
Even when they are at home parents are too busy to communicate with them freely.
Electronic entertainment is also responsible for many problems of teenagers. Watching T.V. or videos or internet is o.k to kill time but it is a totally passive entertainment. It does not provide any kind of positive stimuli for the mind or body.
Result is they turn to alcohol, drugs, crime or sex to seek the thrill which they are missing in their daily lives.
Barring few exceptions, these teenagers do not turn out to be responsible members of the society when adult. Rise in the crimes committed by rich young people in developed countries is a glaring example of this fact.
Therefore it is the collective responsibility of teachers and parents to make growing children understand the difference between good and bad and how the bad things can ruin their health and future lives.
Greater interaction is needed between teenagers and their elders such that elders are looked upon as a source for guidance and not their colleagues.
Teenage is a time to develop one’s personality and skills and should not be wasted on meaningless harmful activities. Children should be encouraged to indulge in healthy pastimes like reading, craft making, and gardening e.t.c. in their holiday time.
I think, to keep the growing children busy and happy at home is the only solution to keep them away from the harmful effects of teen peer pressure.
The author is a specialist in Internal Medicine