Childline advice on the dangers of peer pressure on young people

Saying no can be really difficult, and it can be even more so when the person you’re saying ‘no’ to is a friend.

School playgrounds are a common place for peer pressure.
School playgrounds are a common place for peer pressure.

We get a lot of young people contact us because they simply don’t know how to say no when their friends are putting them under pressure to join in with behaviours that may make them feel uncomfortable.

This can be anything from being encouraged to dress a certain way, to taking drugs and drinking alcohol, and getting involved in sexual activity they are not ready for.

Sometimes a child or young person can also be encouraged to bully someone else, get into trouble at school, or even break the law.

One young person told us: “I like to think of myself as a nice person, and I like my friends to feel the same. This does mean I find it hard to say no to something when my friends ask me to do something.

“A lot of the time they try to convince me I won’t get in trouble, but I’m not stupid.

“When I do say no it’s always really awkward afterwards, and everyone starts saying I’m scared, or that I’m a teacher’s pet, which I’m not.”

On the Childline website, we offer some helpful tips for young people who might be finding it difficult to say no.

These include being assertive and saying it with confidence; trying not to judge others for the decisions they make; spending time with other friends who are more confident in saying no; and suggesting alternatives if something is making them feel uncomfortable.


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We also have specific tips for particular types of peer pressure that young people may be experiencing.

For instance, if someone is pressuring a young person to send sexually explicit images, we recommend our Zipit app, which gives them loads of ways to respond without putting themselves in a difficult position.

We do know that some of these suggestions are easier said than done, but if any child or young person needs extra support they can always call our counsellors whenever they need to – we’re there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Children and young people with any worries can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or, while adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC’s free and confidential helpline on 0808 800 5000.