Lesson 3: Challenging risky behaviour

Developing strategies for dealing with peer pressure to take risks, or when other people's behaviour puts you at risk.

Learning objectives

For students to:

  • consider why some young people engage in risky behaviour
  • understand that peer pressure can be used positively and negatively
  • develop strategies for resisting peer pressure
  • develop strategies for using positive peer pressure to keep themselves and those around them safe.



Links to PSHE - 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 2.2, 3d, 4d


1 hour

Students consider positive and negative risks and discuss them in relation to their own lives and to road safety.


Tell students that the lesson is going to focus on how sometimes some people behave in ways that put themselves and other people at risk, and how sometimes people can pressure you to join in with this. You're going to think about why this might be, and how you can resist this kind of pressure.

Why do people take risks? - 10 minutes

  • Check students' understanding of the terms 'hazard' (something that could harm you) and risk 'risk' (how likely it is to harm you, and how bad that harm would be).
  • Ask students why they think people take risks? Do young people take more risks than other people? Why do they think young people take risks? (e.g. trying new things out for themselves, trying to stand out from the crowd, wanting to be one of the crowd, peer pressure or emulation, establishing an identity, sense that harm will not happen to them, or any potential harm is too far in the future to consider (e.g. smoking), benefits of peer acceptance or instant gratification seem to outweigh the risks, not taking the risk is boring and like an adult.)
  • Do students think they take a lot of risks themselves? Which of these reasons for taking risks do they think apply most to them?
  • Can taking risks have any benefits? (e.g. learning new skills, having positive experiences, developing as a person.) How do you know if a risk is worth taking? (e.g. where harm that may come to you as a result of taking the action is very severe and / or very likely, and this outweighs the benefits.)

Is the risk worth it? - 20 minutes

  • Explain that to assess whether to do something, students will need to think about the hazards associated with the activity (things that could harm them), and the risk associated with it (how likely it is that they will be harmed, and how bad that harm would be).
  • In groups, ask students to discuss risks they see as being positive - the benefits outweigh the risks. (e.g. sports – the risk of competition and / or injury versus the many benefits of participation – learning a new skill, improving health, enjoyment, developing new friendships.)
  • Then ask students to list some of the risks and risky behaviours they are exposed to that they see as being negative - the possible harm to them or others outweighs the likely benefits. (e.g. taking illegal drugs, underage and excessive drinking of alcohol, being a careless or dangerous road user, staying out very late, getting into cars with people you don't know or driven by inexperienced drivers, being a passenger in an over-full car, walking out in front of cars to force them to stop for you, cycling the wrong way down the road or letting others ride on the back of your bike, letting others ride on the back of your bike, jumping red lights, cycling without lights or helmet.) Prompt them to ensure that the road safety related points are included.
  • As a class, discuss how students make judgements on risks like these, deciding whether the benefits outweigh the risks? How do factors like peer pressure, self-image and lack of knowledge influence how students make decisions on taking these risks or not?
  • Allocate one risk to groups of 3-4 students. Ask them to assess the risks and the benefits. What would motivate a young person to take the risk? What positive actions could be taken to avoid the risk or at least to minimise the chance of being harmed? How would they deal with the risk?
  • Groups report back to the whole class for discussion.

Challenging risky behaviour - 25 minutes

  • Ask students: what do you do if other people are making you feel that you have to take risks that you don't want to take? Or if their risky behaviour is likely to cause you harm?
  • The Under pressure interactive presents students with five young people in this situation. Students are asked to think about what strategies they might use to keep themselves or others safer by resisting peer pressure to take risks or confront those whose risky behaviour puts them in danger.
  • If you have a suite of computers available, ask students to work alone or in twos, entering their responses, which can be printed out. When they've worked through all the scenarios, ask students to share their advice to the young people. Which situations do they think are most realistic? What did they think of the suggestions offered by Keiron and Bethany? Whose advice did they think was better, and why?
  • If you have an interactive whiteboard / projector is available, display each scenario in turn, read the young person's story as a class, then ask students to write down their responses individually or in pairs before discussing them.
  • If no computer is available, use the Under pressure? (PDF 730KB) - new window worksheets instead. Fold along the dotted line to hide the 'Other opinions' section and ask students not to look at the advice given by Keiron and Bethany until they've had a go at writing their own.

Plenary - 5 minutes

  • Ask students whether the road safety situations presented in the scenario seemed realistic? Why / why not?
  • Can they think of any other examples of where someone could be pressured into doing something that puts their own safety on the roads or other people's at risk?
  • In road safety contexts, and other contexts, do they feel more equipped to resist peer pressure to take risks, or to challenge other people whose risky behaviour could have an impact on their safety. Why / why not?

Extension activity - role play

  • After looking through the scenarios, students could work in groups to role-play one or more of the scenarios. The aim is for them to practice what they might say if they found themselves in this kind of situation.
  • Students could be encouraged to suggest scenarios of their own and role play how they would deal with them. If this is the case, the teacher must make sure that the chosen scenarios are appropriate to the topic under discussion and not distressing to any members of the group.