What advice can I give to young people?

The following advice is based on what young people have told us through focus groups, and a youth survey of over 1500 respondents:

  1. Resist peer pressure: sexually harassing others online is quite often due to the pressure to ‘fit in’ or be accepted within a peer group. Discussing peer pressure, friendships and stereotypes with your pupils is a positive way to encourage them to reflect on their own behaviours and resist engaging in behaviour that they know to be unacceptable.
  2. Know where the line is: pupils may excuse online sexual harassment as ‘banter’ or a ‘laugh’, or blame the victim for not understanding the joke. It can be easy for jokes to go too far, particularly when they are at the expense of other people. Help pupils to develop their empathy and judgement skills through activities such as discussion and scenario-based role plays to understand how online sexual harassment can make others feel.
  3. Don’t join in: The act of sharing something on, or ‘liking’ an abusive comment can add to the upset the victim may be feeling.  Remind young people they all have a part to play to make the internet a better place, and it can start with the simple act of declining to participate in unacceptable behaviour.
  4. Seek help, not retaliation: young people’s flirting, relationships and break-ups are happening online, often in front of an engaged audience of their peers. As a result of a break-up, young people may feel they need to retaliate in order to maintain their perceived ‘reputation’. They may share nude images of their ex-partners, either actual or fabricated, or share rumours and gossip and invite their peers to join in. When exploring what will often be their first relationships, young people are dealing with new emotions and navigating new boundaries. Without support, they may find their own ways of dealing with these emotions, which may not always be in the most healthy or respectful way. Encourage pupils to seek advice and support in school, and talk about their feelings with a trusted adult, rather than turning to the internet to vent their anger or pain.
  5. You can always tell someone: Young people may feel like the last thing they want to do is to tell an adult. They may feel embarrassed, ashamed, judged or reluctant to ‘snitch’ on their peers. Make sure pupils know staff in school are there to help, no judgement or blame will be put on the victim, and that there is always something that can be done to help. The quicker they speak to someone, the better the chance of managing the spread of the content.
  6. Report it: If young people receive or witness any online sexual harassment, it is important to use the reporting tools available. Encourage them to speak to a trusted adult, and explain how the reporting process in school could help them. You can also signpost young people to speak to a helpline such as Childline (0800 11 11) or The Mix (0808 808 4994) if they want to get more advice on what to do next.