The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Peer pressure

on February 18, 2014

It took me awhile to take any notice of what NekNominate was all about. I’d seen a few tags on Facebook about it and then I saw a few news headlines that this so called ‘game’ had led to some very serious consequences. It was then that I paid more attention to it.

For the few who are behind the times like myself, it’s an on line drinking game that started off in Australia, where you ‘neck’ a drink, do a dare and then nominate someone else to complete the same challenge in 24 hours and post a video on Facebook about it all.

Before there’s any blame on Australia, if you remember Happy Slapping, where groups of young people video the random slapping or punching of total strangers and posting it on line, that was originated in the UK. Tragic consequences have also resulted from that too.

The basic rules of NekNomination laid bare are not in the least extreme. But it appears the interpretation of the rules can be. Of course you can say that it is the idiocy of a few who are taking things too far. The need not to just complete the basic challenge but to go better and further than videos you’ve seen before. For the videos to go ‘viral’ which would reflect what? Popularity? Originality? Fame?

Drinking games are nothing new and generally experienced socially rather than on social media. I can think of many times in the Union bar where drinking games of downing pints and alcopops was the rite of passage by some Club or other. It wasn’t responsible behaviour but then how many teenagers and young people stop at the recommended alcohol consumption level? How many adults?

There must be thousands of NekNominate videos on line that are ‘ordinary’. There must be thousands more that are ‘wacky’. There must be thousands more than that, that are now seen as ‘regretful’ by the stars in them.

When I was at Sixth Form College, a boy I can barely recall the face or name of did something that can only be described as unhygienic. It was after the end of year exams and we all trekked to the pub with a beer garden. There must have been 30 or more people there. I don’t know how it started but all of a sudden a boy had a pint glass filled with his own urine in it. A whip round had been collected with the coins, COINS I say, just scattered on the bench in front of him. Buoyed on by end of exam relief, stupidity and most important of all peer pressure, the other boys dare him to drink his own piss for the collection of coins. COINS!

Did he do it? Of course he did. Why? Peer pressure. Some boys were goading him on and the rest of us were witness to it all. Then what happened? We all felt quite disgusted and looked away and the boy collected his coins looking rather shameful. That was the end of that. You may be thinking why didn’t someone stop him? At that time in our development, we hadn’t evolved properly.

He was lucky though because I can tell you this story and no one will ever know who it is. The same can’t be said of any person (of any age as we shouldn’t just assume only the young are foolish), attempting the same today with multiple camera devices at the disposal of any one person at any time to be broadcast to the world as soon as the deed is done.

Peer pressure has a lot to answer for. It’s always been there. You may say just walk away from it all, who have you to prove anything to? It’s easy to say that now. Now that we really have nothing to prove to anyone. Yet I bet we will still do something on occasion because of peer pressure.

As a parent, this question of peer pressure and the circle of adolescent minds it moves in, is something that concerns me a lot. Within the next ten years, my children will be in that stage of their lives where teenage angst, insecurities, the need to be liked and to fit in will rear it’s emotional head. We may safely be on the other side now but how do we help the next generation navigate their own safe way?

Last Tuesday, 11 February 2014 was Safer Internet Day. It is organised by Insafe to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones by children and young people across the world. You can find out more at http://www.saferinternetday.org.

Not only do we have to help our children cope with the base issues of alcohol, sex and drugs that have existed generations before our time, we now have that added thing of multiple camera devices and online technology to contend with.

Where do you start? Thankfully there are measures beginning to take shape to educate young people on the longevity of one moment of ‘high jinks’. That it can go far beyond your control and never return. There’s impressing upon young people that one day, they will not be a young person anymore and will need to conform to paying taxes and rent that require a position of gainful employment and what kind of technological footprint have they left already? There’s also the importance of educating young people that consent in sexual activity also extends to pressure into ‘sexting’.

Life is cyclical. Just when you think you would never do anything so stupid as down a pint of your own piss because you just wouldn’t and anyone with any sense just wouldn’t. You need to remember there is an up and coming group of people who may well would and we are the ones responsible for ensuring they don’t.

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