Shortly after the birth of Prince George, the Duke of Cambridge learned of a young boy who had killed himself following a vicious campaign of online bullying.
After learning of many similar cases in the UK and around the world, the Duke is now preparing to unveil a national action plan to prevent cyberbullying created by The Royal Foundation’s Taskforce.
Ahead of the launch he met with Chloe Hine, who attempted suicide at the age of 13 after being attacked online, and Lucy Alexander, whose son died by suicide after being bullied, and who is now campaigning to raise awareness of the issue, to ensure no other parents suffer the heartbreak of losing a child to online bullies.
“It is so brave of you both to speak so honestly about it,” he said.
“I know it can’t have been easy, but I can’t thank you enough. I only wish that neither of you had gone through what you’ve gone through.”
“I think it’s worth reminding everyone about the human tragedy of what we’re talking about here,” the Duke continued.
“It isn’t just about companies and about online stuff, it’s actually about real lives that are affected and the consequences – that’s the big thing – the consequences that will happen if things are not kept in check in terms of what we say and what we do.
“We are still responsible for our own actions online. This anonymity is so dangerous.”
Alexander and Hine are both members of The Royal Foundation’s Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying.
They met with the Duke at Kensington Palace to discuss the impact of online abuse.
“It’s written down, so it’s there to look back at, time and time again. And if you’re in a negative space, that’s all you can see,” Alexander explained.
“You look for the negativity and you look for the cruel things.”
Speaking about her son Felix, she added: “I just had no idea of the depths of his despair at all.”
The Duke discussed what sets cyberbullying apart from other forms of bullying.
“It’s one thing when it happens in the playground and it’s visible there and parents and teachers and other children can see it,” he said.
“Online, only one of you sees it and it’s so personal isn’t it? It goes straight to your room.”
Hine agreed: “On social media you can’t escape it, you’re constantly with that bully.
Alexander has now made it her mission to tackle cyberbullying.
“I sort of feel that Felix has given me a job to do – and my job is to make sure that we try and help as many other people like him,” she said.
The Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying includes some of the world’s most recognisable names in media and tech, (including Apple, Facebook, Google, Snapchat and Twitter), as well as children’s charities, parents and a panel of young people.
They will reveal the results of their work – a nationwide action plan on cyberbullying tomorrow (Thursday 16 November).
Useful websites and helplines: Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and ROI – this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill. Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393. Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41. Maytree is a sanctuary for the suicidal in north London in a non-medical setting. For help or to enquire about a stay, call 020 7263 7070.