When teenagers get accused of crimes, parents often ask themselves how it could have happened. They don’t understand why their child made these decisions and choices. It’s perplexing to them because there is a clear risk and they understand how the actions can derail the child’s future.
The issue, some would contend, is that the teens themselves do not understand the risks or at least are willing to ignore them. This is especially true when peer pressure is involved. As one expert put it in Scholastic:
“During early adolescence in particular, teenagers are drawn to the immediate rewards of a potential choice and are less attentive to the possible risks.”
What are the rewards?
For teens, rewards come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them may not even seem like rewards to their parents.
In some cases, it’s clear. With shoplifting, for example, they get an item for free that they may not have been able to afford otherwise. With small-time theft like pick-pocketing, they see it as a way to get money without work.
But teens often don’t care about these types of rewards. After all, you have many affluent teens who commit crimes. A teen with his parents’ credit card in his wallet steals a $20 item from the mall. Clearly, he could have just bought it. He may not even need or want it. So why do it?
That’s where peer pressure may come into play. Teenagers often approach these types of crimes for the thrill. They’re looking for a way to have fun. They’re also looking to prove themselves to one another. If someone suggests stealing or dares them to do it, they may go ahead with it, not thinking of the consequences and certainly not considering the fact that they could just buy the item.
That’s because it’s not about the item at all. It’s about the theft. It’s about making themselves look good to those around them. It’s about impressing the peer group. Those are the rewards. They can’t get that merely by buying something. They only get it by conforming to the peer pressure and doing what they’re told. That’s why they’re willing to ignore the consequences and the risk, even when those things seem so obvious to their parents.
What can you do next?
Have you found out that your teen is facing criminal charges? As you work through why it happened, make sure you also take the time to think about what legal options you have and what steps to take. Remember that the teen’s future hangs in the balance.