When your teen feels like he fits into a group, this gives him a sense of security and acceptance. But that feeling isn't so great when peer pressure leads him to do things he doesn't really want to do, such as buying a gadget or clothing he doesn't really like or can't afford. Not only might he spend money on things he wouldn't normally buy, but a materialist mentality is hard to break out of and often leads to debt. If you've noticed a harmful change in your teen's purchasing choices, you might want to talk to him about other healthier ways to enjoy spending time with his peers and feel confident in himself.
Understanding Peer Pressure
To make sense of your teen's purchasing habits, it's important to understand how peer pressure functions. Peer pressure is a natural part of growing up. Teens crave the input and validation of their friends. Sometimes teens cave in to peer pressure because they believe if they do something, their friends will like them more. Or maybe your teen thinks having a new car will help him get a girlfriend. Sometimes, teens simply wonder why everyone in their group is suddenly obsessed with a new video game or smart phone -- and they buy it out of curiosity. In other cases, peer pressure isn't a negative thing at all. For example, if your teen's clique wears vintage clothing, your teen could become an expert bargain-hunter at thrift shops.
According to "Forbes," the main five things people, not just teens, buy because of real or imagined peer pressure are cigarettes, smart phones, alcohol, Apple digital products and cars. To a teenager, the appeal in these items may be the way they're advertised -- as prestigious or sophisticated things that adults use. Technology like smart phones and tablets, especially, are so readily available now that your teen may feel like an outsider if he doesn't have at least one of these items. In some cases, if a teen feels pressure to have something but doesn't have the money, he might resort to shoplifting.
Peer pressure isn't all that it seems, according to WebMD: Teens usually feel more pressure to do things they think their friends are doing, rather than being pressured directly by their peers. And teens tend to gravitate toward other teens who are doing the same things they want to do.
How to Help Your Teen
Rather than bombard your teen with unwanted information, approach him about peer pressure when the time feels right. If he's playing with a new luxury gadget before dinner, express curiosity. If you find out that peer pressure played a role in his purchase, help him sort out why he felt that need to buy it. Also, it's important to establish rules and consequences, especially if your teen is spending your money frivolously or stealing from you. Even though teens rebel, they still crave parental structure and don't want to let you down. So if your teen is engaging in purchasing behavior that's negatively impacting himself or your family, discuss what needs to change with your teen and partner so everyone is on the same page.