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What's my role and what can I do?

Peer Mentoring

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The SEL activities in this theme provide learners with an opportunity to understand how they can influence the outcome of a situation and who the main players are in a given group situation. There are opportunities to understand why it’s important to consider your actions and how you can exit a situation if things get out of hand.

The Media analysis unit provided opportunities to examine examples of online hate with the objective of making timely and decisive positive decisions based on the evidence at hand and the individual’s prevailing emotions.

The Media production unit provided an opportunity to consider the use of humour to defuse a situation. Learners were encouraged to create a humorous meme that they could use in response to a given scenario to de-escalate the situation.

The Citizenship unit provided an opportunity to consider the use of humour to defuse a situation. Learners were encouraged to create a bank of humours memes that they could use in multiple situations to de-escalate the situation.

Main Activity

The SELMA project short definition of hate speech is:

“Any online content targeting someone based on protected characteristics with the intent or likely effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination.”

Now that you have a clearer understanding of what hate speech is, have reflected on how it may make you and others feel, and have learnt strategies for stepping back and taking a meta-moment to process the strong emotions that hate speech may evoke in you, the question is: How can you respond to hate speech (whether directed at you, those with the protected characteristic you identify with, or directed towards others)?

This is a complex area, and there’s a lot of debate around the best way of responding to instances of hate. That’s partly because people disagree about what “works”, but it’s also because the most appropriate response strongly depends on context. What this means is that it’s more important to think critically about what a specific situation may call for and the relative pros and cons of different responses, rather than to try to come up with a single list of “correct” responses.

It’s helpful to think of this complexity on two levels:

At a wider societal level, people disagree about whether it’s best to allow people to express their hateful messages so that hate can be brought out into the open and challenged, or whether allowing people to use hate speech sends a dangerous signal that that speech is socially acceptable, making similar forms of hate more permissible and putting the targets of that hate speech at risk. The first activity is designed to encourage you to reflect on and discuss some of these challenges.

At an individual level, each person who wants to fight hate speech faces challenges that reflect, to some extent, those faced on a wider societal level: is it best to engage with the person using hate? What if that increases their popularity and the popularity of their hateful message? What if that ends up making you the target of hate? Are there other ways to stand up to hate that may be safer and more effective? The second activity encourages you to think about different types of individual responses in a specific context.

Activity 1: Platform dilemma – Wider societal responses

Note: Works best with 10 learners.

What you will need:

  • The “Platform dilemma” resource (you will need to distribute individual pages from this resource, so the number of resources you will need will be dependent on the number of participants).
  • A pen for each learner.


  • Remind learners that the SELMA toolkit is a set of modules designed to address hate speech through a social and emotional learning approach. Learners will be participating in this activity designed to encourage reflection on the challenges we face when it comes to addressing hate speech on a societal level.
  • It’s important that learners feel safe, comfortable and warmed up before participating in an activity. Check out our handy “How to” guide for general recommendations on how to introduce the peer-mentoring activities.


  1. Ask the group of participants to divide themselves into pairs.
  2. Provide each pair of participants with a physical copy of the first slide of the “Platform dilemma” resource (“What should Dr Susan Jameson do?”).
  3. Learners have 3-5 minutes to read through the scenario and discuss with their partner. Ask them to focus on: what is the dilemma that Dr Susan Jameson is facing? We’ll come back to this later.
  4. Following the paired conversations, explain to participants that they will now be participating in a wider group discussion (while staying in pairs). Participants should explain their understanding of the dilemma Dr Jameson faces. Spend five minutes discussing the scenario with the class. Make sure everyone understands that:
    • Alaran is a made up country and Xenovians are a group of “outsiders” from another country that have settled in Alaran.
    • The debate Dr Jameson has been invited to participate in relates to whether Xenovians have been good, or bad, for Alaran.
    • Mr Dale has accepted to participate in the debate.
    • The debate’s organisers will cancel the event if Dr Jameson declines the invitation – which means that if Dr Jameson says “No” to the invitation, neither she nor Mr Dale will speak at the event (though they can of course speak continue to speak in other places/on other platforms).
  5. Explain to learners that this is a debate activity. They have to present different arguments about whether Dr Jameson should take part in the event. Explain that learners will play one of four roles:
    • On one side, there are “members of the Xenovian community” and “protestors”, who believe that Dr Jameson should decline the invitation.
    • On the other side, there are “free speech advocates”, and “supporters of Mr Dale”, who believe that Dr Jameson should accept the invitation.
  6. Distribute the second slide to participants, which explains, in a single sentence, the main argument that each of these four groups is making to back up their position. Talk participants through each of the four arguments, and invite them to ask you questions if anything seems unclear to them.
  7. Explain that four of the pairs of participants will be taking on the identity of those four groups and will each have the chance to make their case for why their position (of whether Dr Jameson should or should not accept the invitation to the debate) is the right one.
  8. Explain that the fifth pair of participants will take on the role of the deciding panel, which will listen to each of the four groups making their case, ask questions, and then finally, make a judgment on what Dr Jameson should do, explaining their reasons.
  9. Distribute slides 3-6 to the four groups that will be making their respective case to the deciding panel. Explain that on their slides, they will see that their one key argument is broken down into four points – and the first two points have been suggested to them as guidance. Their job is to spend the next 5-8 minutes thinking up another two arguments for their position, and then practicing how they will present their position to the deciding panel. Tell participants that they will also be questioned by the deciding panel at the end of their presentations so they should also think about the types of criticism or concerns their position might raise, and how they would address those.
  10. Distribute slides 7-10 to the fifth pair of participants who will be playing the deciding panel role. Explain that slides 7-10 are for them to think through some of the questions they want to ask each of the groups presenting their case. The aim here is to challenge each group to the same extent – the jury should try to ask equally challenging questions to all the groups because as a “jury”, they should begin from an impartial position and be open to persuasion. The deciding panel should use the 5-8 minutes where groups will be preparing their presentations to think through and add questions they will ask each group on slides 7-10. We’ve included a couple as starters.
  11. After the 5-8 minutes are up, ask participants to come up, one pair at a time, and make their case to the deciding panel. The deciding panel should take notes and then ask their questions to each pair of participants.
  12. Explain that now, the deciding panel will take a few minutes to deliberate and come to a decision on what Dr Jameson should do. At this stage, give the deciding panel pair a copy of Slide 11. Explain that this is where they will record their decision, based on the presentations of each of the four groups and the groups’ responses to the panel’s questions. Remind the deciding panel that they should explain their decision on the slide (it’s fine for this to be in point form) – as they will be asked to explain the reasons behind their decision.
  13. Ask the deciding panel to declare their decision and explain their reasons. If there is time, open up to the wider group for a discussion about that decision, and their reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with it.

Key takeaways:

  • This activity was based on an actual case. As societies we are facing this challenge right now. To some extent people will always disagree about whether and what platforms we should give to people spreading messages that we consider hateful. In this case, the debate revolved around Mr Dale being invited on a “prestigious” platform. We weren’t arguing that Mr Dale should not be allowed to speak anywhere – but whether he should be given a highly respected platform to debate on – and whether he should have been placed near a highly-respected expert. Would this be a good thing, respecting Mr Dale’s free speech and challenging him? Or would it give him a cloak of respectability?
  • This activity was an opportunity to pause and consider different perspectives. We can talk about “free speech” and “hate speech” as abstract principles – but these aren’t abstract principles. Many of us will agree with the principle of free speech, it’s in the messy reality that these things become complicated. We should always pause when the abstract principle of free speech is defended, to reflect on the way that real (groups of) people may feel that their safety has been put at real risk as a result of certain forms of speech. As a society, we cannot defend the principle of free speech without making sure that the voices of the most vulnerable groups of people, who are often the targets of hate speech, are heard. Otherwise, that’s not free speech at all!

Activity 2: Imagining outcomes - individual responses

What you will need:

  • One “Imagining outcomes” resource for each pair of learners.
  • A pen for each pair of learners.
  • A stick of glue or some sticky tack for each pair of learners.
  • Scissors for each pair of learners.


  1. Explain that learners will be working in pairs on an activity designed to help them think through the different ways we can respond to online hate speech as individuals - and the possible risks and benefits associated with each action.
  2. Begin by looking at the first page, and ask learners to take two minutes to read through the case of Jon.
  3. Ask one learner to volunteer to explain what they have understood.
  4. Ask learners whether they think that what Jon has done is an example of online hate speech, and why (there is dehumanisation of a group of people on the basis of their religious belief - this would classify as hate speech according to the SELMA definition).
  5. Then ask learners to turn to page 2. On this page, there are four scenarios based on different possible responses to Jon’s post. But, for each scenario, it’s not clear what happens next. Ask learners to turn to the next page (page 3). Learners should work in pairs to decide which outcome they think fits best with each of the four scenarios. They have five minutes to do this.
  6. Ask learners to volunteer to say how they matched each scenario to an outcome and why - check whether there is agreement and use this as an opportunity for wider discussion.
  7. Explain to learners that there are no clear cut answers to the question of how best to individually respond to online hate speech - and that what’s important is that learners are able to assess their options and determine what they believe would be the best response in each individual situation.
  8. Ask learners to turn to page 4. In this part of the activity, learners are going to look at the four responses again, and judge them according to: How risky the action is (thought of in terms of the risk it poses for the individual who is responding), how effectively it addresses the issue and, finally, they must decide whether or not to recommend the action. They should cut out and use the icons on page 3. They have five minutes to do this.
  9. Ask learners to volunteer to say how they assessed each scenario - check whether there is agreement and use this as an opportunity for wider discussion.
  10. Now, learners have a chance to get creative. Ask them to turn to pages 5 and 6, where they will find circles and arrows that they should cut out. They should then go back to page 2 and use the arrows and circles to show different possible responses that an individual could choose when they have seen a hateful post written by Jon, and what outcome that could have led to. Learners will need to write down the responses and outcomes in the circles. They could add their ideas at any stage of the scenario tree. Give learners 5-10 minutes to do this.
  11. Ask learners to volunteer to present their ideas to the rest of the group. Use this as an opportunity for wider discussion.

Key takeaways:

  • There is no one single best way to respond to all cases of online hate speech - a lot is about assessing context, the type of stand that you feel comfortable taking, whether you would be prepared to deal with possible backlash, whether you are more comfortable with less confrontational approaches, how open you think the person using online hate speech might be to having a conversation with you and possibly changing their perspective.
  • As a rule, however, pausing and reflecting before acting is always a good strategy.
  • Refusing to engage directly is fine and may sometimes be the best strategy - remember that engaging with public hate comments online increases their popularity and visibility, so may have the opposite effect of what you intend. But you can still be an upstander by reporting cases of hate speech, speaking to an adult to get their advice and support, and then working with your friends to come up with cool and proactive ways to address hate culture.

Outcome Criteria

  • Assess the likely effectiveness of, and risks associated with, a range of possible responses to hate speech scenarios at the individual level.
  • Assess the likely effectiveness of, and risks associated with, an individual’s response to hate speech scenarios at a wider social level.


Assess the likely effectiveness of, and risks associated with: - a range of possible responses to hate speech scenarios at the individual level. - an individual’s response to hate speech scenarios at a wider social level.


Platform dilemma

Assessing the likely effectiveness of, and risks associated with, an individual’s response to hate speech scenarios at a wider social level.


Imagining outcomes

Assessing the likely effectiveness of, and risks associated with, a range of possible responses to hate speech scenarios at the individual level.