It’s not an outright dare, but the challenge is implied. And where one teen would never be brave enough, and two might talk each other out of mischief, three will egg each other on until they’ve convinced themselves to go through with it. Not only is there safety in numbers – “They can’t catch all of us!” – but there’s also bravado, which is scary at an age when good judgment is outshouted by the desire for fun.
Brain researchers will tell you that the part of the brain that says, “Let’s try that – it sounds awesome!” is overdeveloped compared to the part that says, “Don’t do it – it’s dangerous!” I see the bigger problem as the parents who overestimate their teens’ ability to do the right thing when surrounded by friends, so they drop them off unsupervised at the mall or the movies or the skating rink. “She’s a good kid; I can trust her,” they think. And she probably is trustworthy – until she’s with a group of friends and peer pressure takes over.
Smart parents will realize that independence needs to be granted in small increments as teens mature. Instead of dropping off a group of middle schoolers, go with them. You don’t have to tag along behind, but they should know you’ll be keeping tabs on them.
And that could mean the difference between “You did WHAT?” and “You did well.”