Alex Holmes: How to Deal with Cyberbullying
Alex Holmes is Deputy CEO of the non-profit The Diana Award, which is a legacy of Princess Diana’s belief that young people have the power to change the world. He is the founder of the peer-to-peer support programme Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, a network of trained young people dedicated to preventing peer on peer violence and bullying, particularly in schools. This is a programme Alex founded when aged 16, after experiencing bullying himself. The programme has trained over 35,000 young people across the UK, Ireland, Greece, and Miami (United States), empowering young people to keep themselves and their peers safe and happy in 4,000 schools.
Alex sits on the global safety advisory boards of a number of significant social media and tech companies, advising them on their approach to safety and online harms. Alex was named on the Independent on Sunday’s Happy List as one of the ‘100 people who make Britain a happier place to live’ and has a keen interest in barriers to children’s happiness and well-being.
Alex himself is actively collaborating with many international schools around the world to raise awareness and train pupils, parents, and teachers on how to effectively diminish and eliminate bullying. With effective and time-proven techniques, the school that is hosting the training is equipped with a set of skills to address the bullying issues and make the learning environment safer, better, and more effective.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is using technology, including the internet, making someone feel upset, unsafe, or uncomfortable. It is usually harassment and abusive, deliberate, and repetitive.
Many influencers and celebrities do suffer from cyberbullying. How can they resist it, and is it possible to protect oneself from cyberbullying? Are there any legal means to be protected from haters in social media?
First of all, my advice would always be to try not to let one voice and one time drown out the positive voices you hear more often. Sadly negativity is a part of life, and if one person is having a bad day and decides to be negative to you, hopefully, we can brush it off, move on and feel resilient/strong. If it happens more than once, then it is best to use the platform tools, report, delete, block, or consider checking settings and banning keywords. Most platforms allow this. If you are being targeted with certain emojis, words, or phrases, you can stop these from appearing. You should also not be afraid to speak to someone if it is affecting you, get their take or advice on the situation. Don’t stoop to their level and fight back. That just makes you as bad as them. I would also remind that mostly the amount of negativity is small compared to the amount of love and support. Try not to draw attention to or give oxygen or a spotlight to the negativity, it is what they want, and it also highlights a tiny minority to your majority. There are 7.5 billion people in the world, don’t let one of them ruin your day. The report, block, mute, and move on.
Is the “hating” and “bullying” the same? What is the difference?
This depends on how you define hating. Everyone has the right to their view or opinion. Still, if it is about a protected characteristic, such as your race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc., it shouldn’t be tolerated as it is hurtful to a group of people and harmful. There is room in the world for different opposing opinions and beliefs, and not everyone is going to like or love you. Bullying is persistent, not a one-off, and someone is going out of their way to target and harass someone.
Do you think social media management should raise awareness about cyberbullying and implement communication rules to avoid it?
Yes, social media companies should and can do more. They should highlight the tools available much more, such as being able to report which is anonymous and read by a human being, mute/block, limit comments, ban certain keywords. All these things are available, but it can be hard to find in their settings. I would like to see campaigns and marketing on safety and cyberbullying by the companies to engage users and help them understand the rules and what they can do. Every company does have rules/community standards, but not many people find or read them. I like to say, therefore: before you speak: THINK: T= Is it true, H= is it helpful, I= is it inspiring, N= is it necessary, K= is it kind.
In the world of fashion, a person could be bullied because of wearing clothes or accessories from the previous collection or looking tasteless. Could it be considered bullying, or is it just a critic?
I think I covered this earlier. People can have an opinion, but they don’t necessarily need to air their opinion, but there are their choice and freedom of speech. If we are public figures and choose certain professions or platforms, then we have to expect some views and comments that are perhaps offensive. However, if these are harmful or personal or hateful, then we could decide to act on this, and it could be reported via community platforms.
Are any anti-bullying laws? Were any successful cases won in the court?
Some countries do have laws against bullying and cyberbullying. And sometimes, bullying could be against the law because it is about a protected characteristic such as race, faith, etc. There are examples of this across the world in courts where people have been prosecuted for their behaviour on or offline. I am not sure I want to see a law against bullying because I think there are laws already around harassment, racism, violence, etc. which could apply; we all make mistakes, and one-offs are perhaps forgivable, especially for children. We are all learning still too, but for more serious incidents, I think in most countries, there are laws already that could apply.