Human beings are social entities who are considerably shaped by their social environment. Man’s relationship and interaction within his social environment determine his attitude and altitude in life. Culture, beliefs, and norms were borne out of man’s interactions and associations in the social environment.

The newborn’s mind could be likened to a new blank sheet of paper that can not decipher right and wrong. But as children grow, all the activities (culture, behaviour, religious beliefs, practices, norms) of everyone around them in the family and school will to a large extent, determine their belief system, practices, and character. Little wonder, there is a saying that “the friends we keep are true reflections of our character “. In essence, our friends, family, and associates have great potential to positively or negatively influence us.

During adolescence (10-19 years), they undergo developmental changes, including physical, cognitive, emotional, psychological etc., which makes them crave independence and self-identity. At this stage, their peers become a strong influence in their lives, thereby increasing their vulnerability and predisposition to risky behaviours. For parents, who have not bonded with their children as friends before adolescence, this period may be a very challenging one.

Also, with a strong influence of Information, Communication and Technology, adolescents tend to be shaped and moulded by social media idols, who are better referred to as their symbols of success.

Several young people’s social media idols or symbols display wealth and affluence on social media and engage in risky behaviours such as having multiple sexual partners, baby mamas and baby daddies, drug and substance abuse, etc. This explains why social vices such as Yahoo, Yahoo Plus, Prostitution (Oloso), Armed Robbery, Kidnapping, etc., are on the rise. Adolescents dream of getting rich quick without critically thinking through the process or the consequences of a wrong action because of the image of their idols/symbols of success they have in their minds. They follow their idols/symbols of success closely on social media to emulate them as well as adopt their belief system even if the beliefs do not make any logical sense.

Furthermore, many adolescents do not view their parents as their symbols of success, possibly because the parents are not good role models, or the parents have not formed a friendship bond with them or because the parents are never available to attend to their needs.

How to reduce the negative social influences on adolescents and young people

Everyone is responsible for reducing the negative impact of the social environment on adolescents so that their great potential and energy can be appropriately channelled for productive use, thereby culminating in national development.

Relevant Stakeholders and their responsibilities

Parents: The family remains the bedrock of education for the child.
Education on moral values, sexuality and discipline, should be initiated by parents early in the child’s formative years before the period of adolescence (10-19 years).
Parents should periodically update themselves on the act of 21st parenting, which requires tact and skills.
Parents should strive to be trusted friends of their children for ease of unhindered information sharing
Children are passive learners as they pay critical attention to what goes on in their social environment. Most of the time, children learn through observations and less often through instructions. So parents must be good role models to their children. Parents should desist from habits and actions they do not want their children to emulate in them.
Get information on purpose discovery and life-building skills.
Guide your children to identify their unique talents and skills and expose them to goal setting and values and right decision making.
Guide your children to discover their purpose and expose them to life-building skills
Help your children to build their self-esteem and confidence because children with low esteem and confidence mostly succumb to negative peer pressure.
Create ample time for your children and determine never to be absent in any phase of their lives.
Parents should celebrate and reward their children when they do the right things.

Adolescents/Young people-
Discover why you are unique, i.e. talents, skills
Acquire knowledge on purpose discovery, life-building skills, inspirational books such as Gifted hands by Ben Carson, Power of positive thinking etc.
Develop your life building skills such as goal setting, decision making, values setting, assertive skills, negotiation skills, refusal skills, self-esteem and confidence.
Set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/result-oriented and time-bound goals at every level of your life.
Build an independent mind and dissociate from any relationship that would not help you achieve your set goals. Bad company corrupts, so choose wise friends.
Adolescents should never forget that every action has a consequence. So they should strive to make good decisions with the guidance of a good role model.
Do not choose a symbol of success that will derail you for your path of destiny, but instead choose a mentor that will positively influence and challenge you to do great things.

Instil moral values and discipline the school children
Discourage negative behaviour such as bullying, illicit relationship etc.
Educate and help children to develop life-building skills, especially self-confidence
Reward and encourage outstanding behaviours

Other critical stakeholders relevant to shaping and moulding adolescents and young people to be responsible and productive citizens include Government, Community and Religious leaders, etc.

In conclusion, choose to live right at all times because you directly or indirectly influence others within your social network.

Written by Yetunde Olagbuji

CEO, Youth Health and Life Skills Development Initiative

Leave a Reply