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Peer Relationship Trends Among Gen-Y Youth

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Essay title: Peer Relationship Trends Among Gen-Y Youth

Peer Relationship Trends Among Gen-Y Youth

Just like young people of previous generations, the youth of Generation Y highly value relationships with their peers. Interaction with playmates aids in the socialization of young children, and as children enter adolescence, friends become increasingly important (“Peer Pressure During Adolescence”). Friends fulfill a young person’s psychological need to be accepted and to belong to a social network outside of his or her family circle.

Relationships with peers factor heavily into the day-to-day life of Gen-Y youth, especially as they mature. Michael Farrell, a sociologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo states, “There’s a point when kids move into adolescence when they start shifting their support network from their family to their friends” (Kowalski 13). Relationships with peers offer adolescents an outlet, allowing them to experience independence from their families in order to mature. As Rey Carr states in his article “Positive Peer Pressure: A Transition Perspective”, peers provide an opportunity for teens “to feel capable …to be respected, and to have fun”.

Many trends are evident upon inspection of Gen-Y peer relationships in America, ranging from electronic communication to the dangers of gang involvement. The following paragraphs will take a closer look at some of these current trends, and how they impact the relationships among peers in Generation Y.

Perhaps the most dominant trend among Gen-Y friends that sets them apart from prior generations is the manner in which they stay in touch. On campuses across the nation, college students can be seen walking along with cell phones virtually glued to their ears. Pagers and beepers tucked into back pockets or clipped to teen waistbands are another familiar sight. PageNet, the largest pager service provider in the USA, reports that teenagers are its “fastest growing group of customers.” (Patterson) Seventeen-year-old Trina Maxwell insists that having a pager is a sign of “hipness” and makes it much easier to “keep track of friends.” (Patterson)

Teens today also stay connected through electronic mail. Referring to Gen-Y youth in his enlightening book Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, Don Tapscott remarks, “�Email me’ has become the parting expression of a generation”(5). Not only do most Gen-Y’ers have their own email accounts, many also communicate with peers on the Internet via chat rooms and multi-user domains (MUDs). Amy Moyer, a Gen-Y teen who often surfs the Net, appreciates the “e-pals” she meets online. “I have…met many good friends over the Net,” Amy enthuses. “I have friends in Hong Kong, Germany, Norway, even Prince Rupert, British Columbia” (Tapscott 169). Unlike the pen-pal phenomenon that American teens of the 1970s enjoyed, there is no long waiting for letters in transit. Online communication affords instant gratification for the users involved. Messages appear on the screen mere seconds after they are posted, allowing conversation-style communication between friends.

Another trend that distinguishes Generation Y from previous generations is their choice of places to “hang out”. The cool spots in the 70s and 80s were bowling alleys, video arcades and discotheques. Today’s young people prefer to congregate at coffee shops, movie theaters, and shopping malls. They also frequent sporting events together, and enjoy lounging in each other’s living rooms watching T.V or simply talking (Hunter).

Just as in previous generations, though, peer pressure powerfully affects Generation Y—both positively and negatively. Teens report that their peers heavily influence their wardrobes, choice of music and leisure-time activities (“Peer Pressure During Adolescence”). On a more serious note, some Gen-Y teens pressure one other into joining gangs that commit burglaries, assaults, and drive-by shootings. Leslie Kaplan, author of the popular book Coping With Peer Pressure, believes that gangs are especially dangerous because of the heartfelt needs they fill. Kaplan points out that “gangs offer the only sense of belonging, respect, and security” some teens have ever felt, and “this is why gangs are a major concern.” (“Peer Pressure During Adolescence”). Today’s teens also fall prey to negative peer pressure in the area of substance abuse. Sociologist Mike Farrell maintains that “the best predictor of a kid using drugs or alcohol is what his or her friends do.”(Kowalski 8). Perhaps the starkest example of negative peer pressure in recent history, however, is the Columbine High School rampage. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold

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