As you might know, this last week was designated National Anti-Bullying Week, and as I was walking past the V&A I was struck by a particular quotation that stood out in the window display. It simply read “Every time you post something on line you have a choice whether to add to the happiness of the world, or to take some away.” It’s a very succinct way of describing the potentially detrimental impact of what we now call cyberbullying, that new and most insidious way of hurting people. Cyberbullying is particularly cowardly: under the cloak of anonymity and at arm’s length real damage to individuals can be done, especially as nowadays for the young there seems no escaping the pervasive reach of social media.
This was very much the theme picked up on by the Duke of Cambridge whose Royal Foundation is leading an industry task force against cyberbullying. He recognises the good that the internet can do, but also understands the fears parents have of its corrosive effects. His “Stop. Speak. Support.” campaign is specifically targeted at young teenagers, but of course we all have a duty to think carefully about the things we post, and to reflect on how our words may be received.
I was impressed by the lead that the prefects and Heads of College took this week: organising the displays in the V&A, sending out daily messages and ensuring that the topic was widely discussed. They focused on the message “all different, all equal” and this of course chimes so well with the Wellington identity, speaking as it does of inclusivity and stressing the importance of recognising the value of each individual. I was especially taken with the message they sent out on Tuesday, when they said: “At Wellington our aim is for every pupil to be celebrated for exactly who they are. You all have so much to offer. Make sure you are you today.” It breaks my heart to think anyone should be the target of warped banter simply for being themselves, which is why I am determined that Wellington should be a safe space for all, and why I was delighted that everyone seemed so anxious to endorse Prince William’s message.