Tega Cay Police Department officer Robert Burns shared the consequences of peer pressure during a presentation at Gold Hill Elementary School last Wednesday.
The presentation is part of a program the department does each month concerning topics affecting students, Burns said.
Burns, school resource officer at Gold Hill Elementary, said peer pressure exists in elementary school, but becomes more prevalent as students get older. He said that with technology, children are more susceptible to someone their age pushing them to do an activity, they may not want to do, such as drug abuse.
“Kids need reinsurance from their parents that they’re loved,” Burns said. “Everyone wants to be noticed and some kids will take the wrong route by being a bully.”
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Sgt. Shane Bell, school resource officer at Gold Hill Middle, said peer pressure starts to become a major issue in eighth grade.
Peer pressure is usually the result of people wanting acceptance and to fit in with their peers, Burns said.
“It can make you do things you really don’t want to do,” he said. “It’s pretty harsh.”
Peer pressure can also be positive, such as peers pressuring others to follow school rules, respect property or avoiding impaired or distracted driving, Burns said.
However, negative peer pressure such as pushing someone else to cheat on a test, smoke or drink alcohol or break the law can lead to consequences, including trouble in school and health and safety issues, he said. Because of the influence of their peers, 55 percent of children will try drugs, Burns said.
“It’s something we as parents need to talk to our kids about,” he said.
Those who don’t give into pressure may lose friends who weren’t good for them, Burns said. However, those who make good decisions will become positive role models.
He said students should decide if they are comfortable doing something and if it is appropriate.
“Be smart and use your head,” Burns said.
The officer said there are strategies on how to deal with peer pressure situations. Giving a bottom line, or saying no, is one way to deter those pushing the action. Students can also put the pressure back on the person by asking them why they are pressuring them.
“Always be a positive role model,” he said. “Just say no.”
For parents, communication with their children is key to helping them deal with every day pressures from their peers, Burns said.
Fort Mill resident Libby Kral said the presentation helped her learn how to better address peer pressure with her son Josh, 6, a rising first-grader at Gold Hill Elementary School.
“Peer pressure is a hot topic right now,” she said. “It is foreshadowing things we need to be mindful of for the future.”