Social Norms

With this resource for secondary schools, in an hour's lesson, you can take a small group of girls through a series of activities and discussions that go deeper on how to recognise, reframe, and push back against stereotypes about what girls can and can’t do: Lean in Girls: Challenge Stereotypes Resource 


Social Norms aims to dispel the misperceptions that young people have about the behaviours of their peer group.

An inevitable part of growing up is becoming independent and taking risks. However, most young people are under the mistaken impression that "everyone"  drinking, smoking, vaping, having sex, and may feel pressurised to engage in the same behaviours.

Social norms aims to:

  • Provide the true figures on the behaviours of young people in your school
  • Enable you to promote the good behaviours of the majority of young people
  • Share the data with staff, parents the wider community
  • Identify areas of concern that could be addressed via PSHE or other lessons
  • Use simple, effective interventions in schools to promote good behaviours

There is significant misperception about peer group behaviour below. It would be useful to dispel the myth around the numbers engaging in risk-taking behaviour. Knowing facts about peers is protective as it reduces the likelihood of engaging in risk when students know that the majority are making safer choices.

The following table is taken from the results of the How Are You? Survey carried out with 686 year 10 pupils from 8 settings in Swindon in Summer 2022.

Activity Perception Reality
Smoke cigarettes (tobacco)

32% 6% (4% NHS definition)
Use e-cigarettes/vapes 49%

Use cannabis  23%

Have ever used other drugs  19%

Drink alcohol*  46%

Sending an indecent image 31%

View pornography  57%

Have had sex**  24%

Knife carrying***  19%


Notes: *Alcohol question asks about regular drinking. Most students, 80% drink alcohol infrequently or not at all. 12% report drinking a few times a month and 8% most weeks.
** This question can be skipped if students find it too sensitive to answer. 33 students (5%) chose to skip the question.
***Knife carrying has an option to ‘rather not say’ and 29 students (4%) chose this option, however some of this group then answered the follow up question. It is likely that around 28 students (4%) are carrying a knife. 18 students (2.6%) report that they are carrying a knife for ‘own protection’.

View the video with the 2022 results of the How are You? survey here

The 2023-2024 survey results will be published shortly.