Since I write about teen relationships, I explore them a lot in my head. Sometimes I take from my still rather vivid memories of being a teen, but often I read up on teen dynamics or talk to today’s teens. I’ve also been known to stalk teens on Facebook and twitter (purely for research and not as creepy as it sounds, I promise) Things have changed with all the technology kids have. Today’s teen years are both isolated with technology and overcrowded with technology.
The teen years are the time when we’re most ruled by peer pressure. Let’s face it; high school is a society within itself. Adults may govern it, but the actual world is flourishing with teen rules and pressures. What to wear, how to speak. Choices to make. And there is judgment. Most teens try to find a way to fit in, in one group or another. Even by rebelling and rejecting the most popular expectations is a way of fitting in with a different group.
I believe that individual personality and self-esteem play an important role in how much peers influence a teen. Some people are by nature, more invested in what others think of them. They want to conform, fit in, be popular, so the right things and say the right things. Others are more apt to flow with their own river, and not be so caught up in what they should do to fit in.
I don’t think that being a teenager is an easy job. For the first time teens are dealing with grownup issues and decisions. At the same time, they’re naturally separating themselves from their parents. The huge influence parents had on decisions when they were younger is fading. And so they turn to the most natural reflection of who they are-- their peers.
Adults function in a much more polite society than teenagers do. We are still faced with popularity contests and pressures about how to look and what to wear, but it’s not as socially acceptable to be as cutting about it. Teen peer pressure is much more daunting to face and to defy.
The other thing I believe plays a huge role in teens lives is family. Not as directly, but family dynamics past and present play a role in how kids function at high school level. As young children, we get a lot of our moral value system from our families and it’s these values that carry over and hopefully shape the way teens deal with the pressures that are out there.
In the books I write, teens are learning to function as individuals and to make their own decisions and figure out WHO THEY ARE. Their peers are a natural part of that equation. To me though, part of maturity and growth is also figuring out how to make your own choices and to learn to be true to yourself. I think I explore the teen’s relationship with others, but ultimately focus mainly on the teen’s relationship with herself! Or himself.
In WHO I KISSED Samantha is a pretty independent teen, yet she still seeks approval from her peer group. She’s the type of teen who feels like she doesn’t quite fit in, but she still tries. A little. Even as she rejects the swimmers who have always been her crowd, she is still influenced by them.
Sam’s journey is internal, but she also relies on her peer group to get through her tragedy. And though the peer group is not always supportive, she faces some bullying, overt and not so much, Sam is just as hard on herself. The good thing is that teen are often the ones who are there for each other and can help when no one else can. There are some things teens can't share with their parents. There are times the peer pressure is something only they can understand.