While peer pressure has always been around, teens today have the added influence of social media everywhere they look. As many teens are immersed in TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and more, the images that they see can pressure them to drink or try other risky behaviors. When the two are at play, the chances of seeing teens start drinking can increase.
As we look at the impact peer pressure and social media have on a teen’s decision to start drinking, we will also share some tips on how your teen can deal with these pressures and make better choices.
Teens and Alcohol Use
Before we can look at what can influence a teenager to start drinking, it’s important to understand just how many teens are drinking illegally.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is the most commonly used substance among teens in the U.S. 
- A 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, 23% drank alcohol over the past 30 days, with 11% admitting to binge drinking. 
While each teen’s reason for drinking will differ, there is no denying that peer pressure and social media pressure play a prominent role.
How Peer Pressure Impacts Teens to Start Drinking
Peer pressure is a leading risk factor for underage drinking and other drug use.  Peer pressure can be very obvious. It can look like someone asking your teen if they want to have a drink or, in a more subtle form, your teen watching peers drink and being curious. Either scenario can open the door to alcohol use and potential alcohol abuse.
Many teens have a constant desire to fit in. This desire can make them feel as though they need to drink if they see their peers drinking, especially if it’s a group they want to belong to. Teens may feel like they’re going to be made fun of or left out if they don’t drink.
Teens are also prone to exaggerating their exploits to make themselves appear “cool.” They may brag about drinking a lot when, in reality, they are not. However, their stories can pressure others to try alcohol and abuse it so that they can feel as though they can fit in socially.
Regarding teens and peer pressure, you must also consider that a teen’s brain is not yet fully developed. The prefrontal cortex, which controls a teen’s personality, is still developing.  This can make it more difficult for them to decide how a risky behavior can impact their identity. Since teens are still trying to figure out who they are, they can have more difficulty deciding what types of behavior do not define them.
How Social Media Impacts Teens to Start Drinking
Besides ongoing peer pressure for teens to start drinking, they are also bombarded with images of alcohol use on social media. If you think these don’t influence them, think again. A CBS News study found that ¾ of teens between 12 and 17 who saw their peers partying on social media were likelier to do the same.  Researchers also looked at the influence of Instagram and Snapchat specifically. Teens were more likely to drink and use marijuana if they saw their friends post about it on those platforms. 
Besides seeing images of their peers drinking, teens are also exposed to pictures of celebrities drinking and partying on social media. Seeing these images can normalize drinking and make it seem cool. If teens see someone they emulate drinking and having a good time, they may be more prone to do the same. When you consider that teens spend nearly five hours daily on social media, there are many opportunities for them to see images of both their peers and celebrities glamourizing and promoting drinking. 
Suppose teens are scrolling through feeds, watching videos, and listening to music on social media sites. In that case, they may also hear many references to alcohol that can impact their decision to try it. Researchers found that for every hour of music teens listen to, more than three references are made to different alcohol brand names.  This has led some to believe that it may contribute to teens deciding to drink.
How Teens Can Deal with Peer Pressure and Social Media Pressure to Drink
Since peer pressure and social media pressure for teens to start drinking isn’t going away anytime soon, your teen needs to have tools to help them combat these pressures.
While it can be challenging to say no and stand firm in that decision, it is essential for your teen to feel confident enough to do so. Encourage them to be strong in their convictions to stand up to peer pressure.
Find New Friends Who Share Your Values
If your teen’s friends are constantly pressuring them to drink, suggest that it may be time for them to broaden their circle. Find friends who don’t drink and won’t pressure your teen to drink. This can make it much easier to avoid making bad choices.
Encourage your teen to talk to you or another trusted adult if they feel pressured to drink. Carrying the burden alone can lead them to try alcohol even more.
Work with your teen to prepare responses if they are asked to drink. This can give them the preparation they need when put on the spot, especially if they don’t react well under pressure.
Limit Screen Time
As a parent, you can limit your teen’s screen time to minimize the number of images they are exposed to. While this may be difficult, it is one way to help your teen avoid too many social media pressures.
Monitor Social Media
Monitor your teen’s social media to see what accounts they are following and what images they may be exposed to. If you notice too many questionable photos, it’s time to have an open conversation.
Get Help at Ember Recovery When Teens Start Drinking
If your teen has started drinking and has developed a substance abuse problem, help is available at Ember Recovery. We offer programs exclusively for teens to help them combat their alcohol use. Call us today to learn more!
Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm#:~:  https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/pep23-03-01-006.pdf  https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/The-Teen-Brain-Behavior-Problem-Solving-and-Decision-Making-095.aspx  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/survey-digital-peer-pressure-fueling-drug-alcohol-use-in-high-school-students/  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dar.13620  https://news.gallup.com/poll/512576/teens-spend-average-hours-social-media-per-day.aspx  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2881613/
Andrea Dickerson is a Licensed Therapist and Certified Substance Use Counselor who has worked in behavioral health since 1997. Currently, Andrea is the Director of Behavioral Health, overseeing the Ember residential treatment programs and YSS outpatient counseling clinics throughout Central and North Central Iowa. She became a Motivational Interviewing (MI) trainer in 2006 and provides MI trainings throughout Iowa.
Andrea specializes in working with adolescents and their families and enjoys seeing the family relationships grow through therapy. Andrea is also a CARF International Surveyor, going around North America ensuring behavioral health organizations are meeting required standards.
In her free time, Andrea enjoys cheering on the Iowa Hawkeyes and Chicago Cubs, as well as being an active member of Soroptimist International of the Americas (SIA), a global organization that provides women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic empowerment. She has been a member of the SI of Des Moines club since 2012 and has been actively involved at the regional level, currently serving as Co-Governor of the Peaks to Plains Region.
Through her involvement in SIA, Andrea has been actively involved in the Dream Programs, coordinating annual Dream It, Be It: Career Support for Girls projects, which give girls the tools they need to achieve their education and career goals, empowering them to break cycles of poverty, violence, and abuse.