Peer pressure

When starting secondary school, it’s normal for students to feel influenced by their peers as they negotiate and manage new structures around friendships, belief systems and where they fit in. Peer pressure can cause students to do or say things they wouldn’t normally do or say. It isn’t always a bad thing: pressure from a student’s peers to study harder or to stand up to bullying can have positive results. But on the flip slide, some influences can be negative, such as pressure from peers to treat some people badly or to engage in risky behaviour such as binge drinking. This type of peer pressure can impact on a student’s self-confidence and self-concept, and may isolate them from their family and friends.

Promoting a culture of diversity and inclusivity, encouraging open discussions with students and parents around peer pressure, developing key communication skills to help in managing negative peer pressure situations, and building resilience, are some practical ways students can be supported.

Top tips for supporting your students

  • Promote positive peer pressure outcomes in your classroom.

  • Talk openly and honestly with your students around what peer pressure is and how it can be used for both positive and negative outcomes. Encourage students to talk about the pressures they feel to conform, and discuss practical ways to manage this pressure. Check out ‘Resources to share with students’, below, for ideas.

  • Provide opportunities for students to practise their communication skills to manage negative peer pressure situations. Role playing and using real-life scenarios are effective approaches to use.

  • Involve parents in discussions around peer pressure. They have an important role to play in talking to their child about peer pressure. Building resilience in young people is one of the most effective ways to help them manage adversity, change and peer pressure.

Classroom activities

Effective communication skills

Teaching communication skills to students, particularly assertive communication skills, is a useful strategy to help them stand up to bullying. Giving students the opportunity to reflect on their values and beliefs around communication is a good starting point for dealing with peer pressure.

Being awesome at self-care exercise

Learning to look after yourself has been shown to build self-confidence and provide positive feelings. This confidence can assist students as they cope with influence and pressure from their peer group.

Trying to fit in

As teenagers, it’s normal for students to want to have friends and fit in with a group. However, sometimes when trying to fit in, they give in to peer pressure and find themselves doing things they don’t feel comfortable doing. Use this lesson to start the conversation with students about peer pressure.

Stop. Think!

Being able to control impulses and reactions to different situations is an important skill. This activity asks students to stop and think before they act.

Understanding fixed and growth mindsets

Where peer pressure is involved, students may do things they normally wouldn’t and feel as though they have let themselves down. In this activity, students reflect on their understanding of ‘failure’, and on the importance of mindset in learning from mistakes.

Resources for students

ReachOut works with young people across Australia to develop content. You could share some of these resources with your students.

Understanding what peer pressure is

Giving in to pressure from your friends to do something you normally wouldn't do can leave you feeling guilty, regretful, ashamed, embarrassed or even frightened. Find out what peer pressure is and how to handle it, including what to do if things get serious.

What makes a good friend?

Having good friends who love and support you for who you are is really important to your happiness. Learn what makes a good friend, and how you can be there for your friends when they need you most.

Practical ways to deal with a toxic friendship

It’s not always easy to know where you stand in a friendship, but there are ways to spot when it’s no good. Find out how to recognise and handle a toxic friendship.

How to have difficult conversations

Whether you need to apologise to someone, or to confront them about a negative situation, having a difficult conversation can be nerve-racking and scary. We provide some tips for making difficult conversations a little easier.

Resources for parents and carers

ReachOut works with parents across Australia to develop content that helps them to support their young person. You could share some of these resources with your parent community.

Peer pressure and teenagers

As your child starts moving away from the parent–child relationship and seeking their own independence and identity, their peers will become more important to them. Your role as a parent is to support your child to recognise teen peer pressure, to identify when it helps and hinders them, and to understand how they can develop their own individuality.

Positive peer pressure and teenagers

Positive peer pressure is when someone’s peers influence them to do something positive or growth building. You can help your teenager to be a positive peer influence on their friends.

Creative ways to say ‘no’ to peer pressure

Coming up with ways to withstand peer pressure when you’re put on the spot can be tricky. Watch ReachOut’s video for some creative ways your teen can deal with peer pressure.

Peer pressure and social media

Social media doesn't have to be a scary thing, but it can raise a whole set of questions around peer pressure that parents should think about. Watch ReachOut’s video where a daughter and mum talk about what peer pressure means for them and share their ideas on how to deal with it.

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