By OLIVER BROWN
Peer pressure is a term one should be all too familiar with when dealing with a teenager in high school.
It can revolve around fashion, physical activities and even social norms and, usually, is considered harmless.
However, when teenagers become involved in an environment full of negative influences, peer pressure can become a serious problem, not only for the child but also for those around them.
Teen delinquency is an issue that, unfortunately, cannot be prevented, though most school systems have their own ways of dealing with it, such as student counselling.
Student wellbeing leader at Unley High School, Andrew Hall, has been working as a student counsellor for 14 years and is no stranger to inappropriate student behaviour.
“I’m often called in from a counselling point-of-view to work with young people that are behaving inappropriately,” Mr Hall said.
“[the most common issues with teenagers] often involve disengagement from work but also revolves around anger management.”
A study conducted in 2000 revealed a vicious cycle whereby when a child demonstrates aggressive behaviour early in their education, they may have difficulties with their teachers and fellow students.
This may lead to the child having a poor relationship with their teachers and peers and, as a result, lead to further delinquency.
And so, the cycle goes on…
It also pointed out, though, becoming involved with peers already involved in delinquency may result in further developing a student’s own delinquent behaviours.
“Like-minded kids gravitate together…” Mr Hall explained when asked about this correlation.
According to the study, both girls and boys are susceptible to being negatively influenced by others, though the topics they discuss differ.
A woman, who wished to remain anonymous, is the mother of a male teenager who has just finished at Southern Cross Catholic Vocational College, after going through several different high schools in New South Wales.
Her son, already struggling with his studies due to Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia, found it incredibly difficult to focus in the normal school system.
His disruptive behaviour at his previous schools resulted in her sending him to The John Berne School, a small college designed for boys aged 12-15 who have behavioural problems or are at risk of not completing their education.
“John Berne is kind of like the repository for kids who get kicked out of the Catholic School system,” she said.
While the school proved to be a good next step for him, the young man quickly became involved with a bad crowd of fellow students, and his behaviour only grew worse.
“He was mixing with students who had also been kicked out of other schools or just didn’t fit in with other school systems,” she said.
“We were very worried right from the beginning because we knew he was very impressionable and we had already noticed he was drawn to the ‘naughty element’.
“We knew we were moving into a situation where he was going to be mixing with some very tricky kids, which ended up being problematic.”
The John Berne School refused to comment on the matter, however, the parent believes though it was a negative social environment to influence his behaviour, the school itself was ideal for children like him.
“There’s a very high ratio of teacher to students, which I think was very good for him,” she said.
“Students were given a lot of attention, a lot of academic support, and a lot of emotional support.”
Mr Hall said there were both positives and negatives from organising new programs to help troubled students who don’t fit into the normal education system.
However, he also observed that before trying to solve the problem with new programs, the students ultimately need to make the active decision to change themselves.
“If the young person doesn’t want to buy in, [we’re] just wasting a huge amount of money and energy,” he said.
So, when considering new programs to help delinquent students, it is important to create a balance between providing an appealing education, but also ensuring they are learning in an environment where peer pressure will not push them down a path from which they cannot return.
Image Courtesy: Legal Beagle