Why use a peer support scheme?
Peer-led initiatives empower young people to support their peers and make a positive difference on an issue within their school, community or online.
Peer support schemes have been shown to have a number of benefits to both the school and the young person in the role of peer supporter:
- Students who are peer supporters gain important skills including increased self-confidence, a sense of responsibility, active listening, empathy and communication skills.
- Peer supporters often have more in common with students who need help than adults. Students who have been bullied for instance often find it helpful to talk to a peer.
- Students are often more likely to listen to someone their own age than an adult. Peer support schemes can therefore influence behaviour to create a positive change.
Peer support schemes can take many different forms. In the context of the SELMA programme, our suggested approach is peer mentoring.
Peer-led initiatives can have a particular impact on online issues. By harnessing students’ knowledge of the issues young people encounter online, peer mentors can model positive online behaviour, equip their peers with knowledge about online trends and issues, and raise awareness of coping mechanisms.
The role of a peer mentor may include the following responsibilities:
- Providing students with someone their own age to talk to about problems they experience online.
- Understanding the issues that exist among their peers in relation to the online world.
- Working with and supporting students who have encountered issues such as online hate speech.
- Helping to review school policies and procedures around online safety.
- Running activities and campaigns which educate students, staff and parents/carers about online safety and promote positive online behaviour and attitudes.
- Educating students and parents/carers about what they can do if they or their child is struggling with an issue online.
- Building a school culture which places a strong ongoing emphasis on online safety and skills.