‘Show Me Your Friends and I’ll Show You Your Future’: How Peer Influence Can Change You 

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Think about how your peers may be affecting you. Is your peer group benefiting your life or leading you down a dark road? We spoke with some experts at Ukiah High School about how students can fall under the influence of peers changing their behavior for the better or worse.

School psychologist Jacob Bainbridge told us peer pressure can be negative or positive. Essentially, “Everyone is a product of their environment.”

Bainbridge said that most peer groups revolve around a leader and then the people that follow that leader. “If you’re a leader, you’re all good. If you’re following or just joining the group, you’re going to be more susceptible to peer pressure.”

Bainbridge told us he had worked with kids who fell to peer pressure. He watched them pick a new group of friends and now “he’s doing so much better because the kids he’s around are doing so much better.”

Getting out from under the influence of peers can be difficult. Bainbridge explained requiring a teen to get new friends will never work. Instead, “the person needs to realize for themselves if their friends are hurting or harming them”.   

[All photos taken by Katie William]

Bainbridge said teens can find themselves wrapped up in behaviors and decisions that end with bad results. “You can commit a crime and suddenly you now have a criminal record, you can tank your future by just a couple of stupid decisions.”

Jason Gardner is the coordinator of Ukiah High’s Restorative Justice Center and told us a story of watching a student he worked with fall under the negative influence of peers. “I had a student 8-9 years ago, grades were good, life was normal. Eventually, he started smoking weed, not caring, started drinking, and then started to struggle with homelessness a little.”

To help the student, Gardner used outdoor education taking the student camping, He said “I was able to take the kid camping to reflect on his decisions and get some outdoor education. The whole point was to flip the script, once he took ownership and realized his patterns, the script was flipped.”

If you need to help, please reach out to one of our trained counselors abainbridge@uusd.net, jbainbridge@uusd.net, or abakewell@uusd.net.

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