Teachers, Parents Need to Know About Teen Peer Pressure

When teens need to get out of uncomfortable situations, the X-Plan might come in handy.

The plan is simple: Teens text the letter "X" to a parent or an older sibling when they need help. The recipient then calls the teen and says to leave immediately and that the recipient will pick up the teen.

The parent or older sibling doesn't ask any questions and the teen has an excuse to leave the party or other risky situation while avoiding social ridicule.

The X-Plan to address peer pressure went viral last month and is the brainchild of a West Virginia dad, but dealing with this kind of stress is nothing new for teens.

One Twitter user shared a similar plan with U.S. News.

"Everything is so hyper-competitive now, whether it's trying to get into the best colleges, whether it's trying to make teams or clubs," says Jason Ness, principal of Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois. Being recognized by their peers as excelling in a particular area offers teens a lot of social currency.

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That's compounded by the rise in social media, says Ness, who's also a licensed clinical and school psychologist. "It's always out there – you are always seeing what others are doing or accomplishing, and you don't even know whether it's real or not."

Often, no one has talked with teens about peer pressure or given them the skills they need to think through these situations, he says. His educators work on developing social emotional skills, self-confidence, self-identity and the abilities to see opposing perspectives and anticipate difficulties that may arise in social situations, among others.

The teenage brain isn't fully developed, he says. Students need to learn how to slow down, think through situations and consider the risks and benefits. Knowing they have a support system to contact in tricky situations can help teens build self-confidence, he says.