Showing Teens How to Sniff Out Bad Influences

Every month, we keep you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re drawing from a recent article from U.S. News & World Report that explains the importance of teens having friends and how parents can help their teens navigate friendships, both good and bad.

As difficult as it is to feel distance from our teens as they spend more time hanging out with friends, this behavior may be a necessary part of life. While parents may feel ignored, teens are simply trying to grow up and begin the process of forming an identity, declaring independence, and achieving a sense of acceptance and belonging. Social connections like friendship can benefit teens in several ways including better self-esteem, improved mental health, stronger emotional regulation skills, improved cognitive function, and more feelings of empathy and trust toward others.

While parents should allow teens to develop their own social groups, parents should encourage teens to develop healthy relationships, while discouraging unhealthy ones by equipping your teen with the ability to tell if a friend is a bad influence. If you have a bad feeling about a friend of your teen, let your teen know, but be careful to not overreact based on an assumption by not letting your teen see their friend.

Instead, teach your teen how to pick up on warning signs themselves so they can make their own decisions about drifting away from potentially bad influences. Tell them to be wary of friends who:

  • Gossip regularly, especially when it is harmful gossip or bullying
  • Are hot and cold on whether they want to be your teen’s friend
  • “Like” or publish posts on social media about risky behaviors like underage drinking
  • Disrespect authority figures like teachers and parents or disobey school rules
  • Make jokes or comments about abusing substances or breaking the law

One of the most important lessons you can teach your teen is how to sniff out peer pressure, particularly in instances of substance abuse and misuse. When talking to your teen about the dangers of substance abuse—which you should do regularly—make peer pressure a part of the conversation. Remind your teen often that “fitting in” or “looking cool” isn’t worth the side effects that come with abusing substances.

One thing to keep in mind is remembering how quickly teen friendships change. With high school drama and hormone rollercoasters, your teen’s best friend could be their enemy the very next day. When checking in on your teen’s life, remember to ask them how their friends are doing, and they may let you know of any major shifts that could be causing them emotional stress.

Want to read more about this topic? You can read U.S. News & World Report’s article here.


Along with following our blog, you can stay updated on new studies and trends in teen behavior, advice for keeping teens away from risky behaviors, general teen parenting tips, and more by keeping up with the Stop Medicine Abuse initiative on Facebook and Twitter.

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