Wichita State News
Photo: Joe Kleinsasser
Wichita State University child psychologist Jim Snyder says parents need to be aware of their child's friends and what they're doing.

PODCAST: Children's peers can be good or bad influence

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at http://www.wichita.edu/newslinepodcast. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU — the home of Thinkers, Doers, Movers and Shockers — on the Web at wichita.edu.

Visit any school and you will experience the power of influence. Clothing, hairstyles, attitudes and even the language are all gained by some amount of influence, whether it's from fads, celebrities or friends. School is back in session, and parents hope their children choose friends who are a good influence. Wichita State University child psychologist Jim Snyder says, for parents, that means being aware of their child's friends and what they're doing.

Snyder: "There's two pieces to managing or being aware of peer influence. The first entails managing and creating environments in which your children are engaged in constructive activities under adult supervision. The second aspect is what's called supervision or monitoring, and really being aware of where your children are at, who they're with and what they're doing."

And whether you like it or not, peer influence is important to a child's development, as Snyder explains.

Snyder: "So peers are important contributors to children's development. That influence can be for good or for bad. It depends upon the characteristics of the children or peers that your child hangs out with."

Snyder says peer influence starts early and may be positive or negative.

Snyder: "Peers do have a powerful influence in children's development, beginning as early as preschool and continuing through adolescence."

"We tend to think of peer influence in negative terms, but peers can also have a powerful positive influence."

Snyder also says managing the influence of your child's friends can be a challenge.

Snyder: "Managing and being aware of your child's peers and peer relationships and peer influence is a particular challenge to parents, and that challenge changes somewhat depending on the child's age."

Snyder has a suggestion for parents who are concerned about negative peer influences at school.

Snyder: "If parents have concerns about negative peer influence during early childhood and during the elementary school years, and those are occurring at school, there are two tactics. The first is to take those concerns to the child's teacher or to school to see how that influence can be managed. The second tactic is to talk with your child about who he or she is associating with and to problem solve about how to deal with that."

Snyder says it's important to be aware of your child's peers and what they're doing.

Snyder: "So generally the idea is to be aware of your child's peers and who he or she hangs out with and what they're doing. That involves having conversations with the child, setting reasonable rules about whereabouts and friends. And probably a newer concern has to do with computer usage. And the wisdom these days is that children's use of computers — computers should be placed in public areas in the home so that parents can monitor their children's computer usage."

Mara Berkley, a family therapist and professor at Bristol University in Rhode Island, says, as a parent, you can help your children choose friends who will offer the best parts of friendship. Being your child's friend, as well as their parent, can go a long way in helping them become caring, responsible adults.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

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Created on Thursday, August 20, 2009; Last modified on Wednesday, October 28, 2009