Cyber-bullying: Prince’s ‘stop, speak, support’ code of conduct

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Cyber-bullying: Prince’s ‘stop, speak, support’ code of conduct

Facebook and Snapchat are trialling a new, more direct way to help young people bullied online, following an intervention by Prince William.

The social media platforms will put those in need of emotional support in touch with a counsellor from Childline.

The prince, together with tech firms, children’s charities and parents, is also introducing the equivalent of a Green Cross Code for the internet.

It tells young people to “stop, speak, support” when online.

The aim is to encourage them to stop negative behaviour, tell a responsible adult and support victims of bullying.

Other firms, including Google and EE, have also taken part in the project.

The Duke of Cambridge became interested in helping to tackle the issue shortly after his son Prince George was born, when he heard about a boy who killed himself because of online abuse.

‘Ate away at him

In a moving video filmed to highlight the project, Lucy Alexander told the prince about her son Felix, who killed himself after being targeted on social media.

“Social media was his life. It was the way everyone communicated, and if you weren’t on it, you were isolated.

“If he was invited to a party, someone would text saying: ‘You don’t want to invite him. Everyone hates him’.

“And all he saw was negative. He saw himself as stupid and ugly,” she told the prince.

“It just ate away at him inside, I think, but I had no idea of the depth of his despair at all.”

She believes the prince’s initiative could have helped her son in his darkest times.

“It may not have changed my story, but it’s got to be a step forward,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Prince William also heard from Chloe Hine, who, aged 13, tried to take her own life after enduring sustained online abuse.

“You can’t escape it. You’re constantly with that bully,” she said.

She described being part of a group who turned on her after she said something they didn’t want to hear.

They decided they should all hate her and would twist her words, she said.

“Then it kind of spiralled out of control from there.”

The prince highlighted the danger of anonymous bullying – which he says can come directly into a young person’s bedroom but remain invisible to those around them.

“It is one thing when it happens in the playground and it’s visible there and parents and teachers and other children can see it.

“Online, you’re the only one who sees it, and it’s so personal. It goes straight to your room.” he said.

He also warned against cyber-bullies being able to ignore the real-world consequences of their actions.

“I think it is worth reminding everyone that the human tragedy of what we are talking about here isn’t just about companies and online stuff – it’s actually real lives that get affected,” he added.

Brent Hoberman, chairman of the Royal Foundations taskforce, said he wanted to see the trial to give young people access to a counsellor rolled out universally.

Asked whether the onus should be on the tech firms to remove the bullying posts or messages, he told BBC’s Today that removing them may not be as effective as helping the young person emotionally.

The message, he said, to young people was “don’t be bystanders – step up speak out, stop this”.

The responsibility to deal with this was “everywhere”, he added.

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