Cyberbullying: Mum’s story of loss inspires prince to act


Felix Alexander.


Social media was Felix’s life, his mum Lucy Alexander says

The Duke of Cambridge, inspired by a mother’s story of loss, has launched a code of conduct to beat cyberbullying.

Lucy Alexander’s son, Felix, killed himself aged 17 after years of being bullied on social media.

The prince, together with tech firms, children’s charities and parents, wants young people to follow the equivalent of a Green Cross Code for the internet – to “stop, speak, support”.

Facebook and Snapchat are also set to trial giving access to counselling.

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

At the final meeting of the cyberbullying taskforce at Google’s HQ in London, Prince William urged tech giants to “innovate, collaborate and educate” people on the dangers of cyberbullying.

“You’ve heard me say before that this is a personal issue for me,” he told representatives from Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Vodafone.

“My work with the air ambulance saw a lot of suicide, some of it from bullying, some from other areas of life.”

The aim of the new code of conduct is to encourage 11 to 16-year-olds across the UK to stop negative behaviour, tell a responsible adult and support victims of bullying.

The Duke of Cambridge became interested in helping to tackle the issue shortly after his son Prince George was born, when he first heard about Felix Alexander.

‘Ate away at him

In a moving video filmed to highlight the project, Lucy Alexander, from Worcester, told the prince about her son Felix.

“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.”

  • How can I keep my kids safe online?
  • Is your child a cyberbully?

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.

What is cyberbullying?

It’s bullying behaviour on social networks, games and mobile phones, which can include spreading rumours about someone, or posting mean or embarrassing messages, photos or video.

The NSPCC says children may know who is behind the bullying, and it may be an extension of bullying in school or elsewhere. Or the bully may be targeting someone using a fake or anonymous account.

Cyberbullying can happen at any time and anywhere, even when a child is alone in their bedroom, making it feel as if there is no escape.

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.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, taskforce chairman Brent Hoberman said William was instrumental in doing something that “almost no-one can do” by bringing together top representatives of rival companies.

He 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 programme 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.

What to do if your child is being cyberbullied

Talk about it – find the right time to approach them with your concerns.

Show your support – stay calm, be considered and tell them how you will help them.

Don’t necessarily stop them going online – this can make them feel more isolated.

Help them to deal with it – advise them to tell the person how it makes them feel and ask them to take any pictures or comments down.

Don’t retaliate – advise them against responding to abusive messages and to leave uncomfortable conversations.

Block the bullies – if messages continue, block the sender and report them to the social network or gaming platform.

Keep the evidence – take screenshots as proof.

Don’t deal with it alone – talk to friends or your child’s school for support.

Know when to take it further – consider telling the police if your child is in danger.

Don’t stop when the bullying stops – keep talking and consider counselling.

Source: Internet Matters