1. Welcome the participants and explain that today you will discuss peer pressure.
2. Start the activity by asking what peers are and what peer pressure is. Ask participants to identify different kinds of peer pressure. List their responses on a flipchart or chalkboard.
3. When everyone has had a chance to contribute, summarise the discussion with the following explanations:
Peers are a group of people who share similar characteristics, interests or daily activities. For example, people of the same age and background, or who do the same kind of work, or have the same or similar lifestyle, experiences or beliefs. The more peers have in common with each other, the more likely it is that they will influence each other.
Peer pressure is when peers actively try to persuade you to do something that you do not want to do or are unsure about. It happens when you feel you must behave in a certain way to be accepted and liked by your peers, without any direct persuasion or instruction from others.
Peer pressure can be positive or negative. It is positive when you are encouraged and supported to do something you wanted to do, but were unsure of whether you could. It is also positive if your peers discourage you from doing something you are tempted to do that may harm or hurt you. Peer pressure is negative when you feel forced or coerced into doing things you do not want to, or know that you should not do.
4. Ask participants to describe ways of resisting negative peer pressure. You can supplement the discussion with some of the examples listed below:
• Think about what you do and do not want to do, and why.
• Be clear about the facts and values, which are guiding you.
• Seek out further information that may help you make your decisions.
• Think about the consequences of your choice. Will you feel good about it the next day? Is it a healthy, positive decision? Are you completely in control of the situation and the likely consequences?
• Keep focused as to what your position is, and why you have decided to choose this path.
• Stand your ground and do not give into pressure. This means being strong, determined and motivated to stick to your decision. Feeling strong and sure means that you do not give into threats of emotional blackmail, such as “if you were a good friend, you would help me steal some money…we cannot be friends if you do not help me…. if I get caught, I will say you were involved…”
5. Now divide the participants into smaller groups of five to six people and ask them to discuss different ways the young person in the story could deal with the situation:
“I am having problems with my friends at school. We are a group of five. I enjoy being with them and doing things, but sometimes after school we get together and do things l do not feel good about, like stealing and smoking cigarettes. One time they found a can of paint and sprayed words on a garden wall. I have sometimes said l feel this is not right, but they laughed at me, teasing me and calling me names. They said if l do not want to do these things with them, then l must leave the group. I don’t want to have no friends, but l feel bad doing these things. Please help me.”
6. Give the groups paper and pens to make notes while they talk.
7. After about ten minutes ask the groups to share the solutions they came up with.
8. Talk about peer pressure, for example, say something like:
“Throughout life, it is important to feel that we belong to a group of people. This is particularly important during adolescence, as young people are developing their identities and figuring out who they are and what they stand for. Sometimes people feel they have to conform to fit into a group, even if it means engaging in risky and harmful behaviour, such as doing drugs or drinking alcohol. People do this because they fear being ridiculed or rejected by others. Conforming to negative peer pressure often leads to, and is also caused by, low self-esteem and lack of assertiveness and confidence. Resisting or rejecting negative peer pressure can be challenging, but it will make young people stronger in the end. It is important to find and identify with groups who behave differently – or try to influence the group if possible.”
Ask the group to provide examples of negative peer pressure and how to overcome it. After that, end the session and thank the participants.