Prince William surprised students at a London school on Thursday to discuss cyberbullying, and he offered a candid admission.
“I worry for you girls,” he told students at Burlington Danes Academy during a midday assembly, where his appearance had been kept a secret.
Speaking with Samara Hackett-Valton and Sophie Crowder, both 15, William said he has real concerns over body image and how women are portrayed online.
“The touched-up pictures are not real,” he said. “Don’t try to recreate them or think that’s what you’ve got to aim for. There’s a lot of fakeness online so don’t worry about that.”
Noting the many stresses that come with being a teenager in the Internet era, he said, “That’s a lot. You must be aware of that, it’s a lot of pressure. There’s so many things going on. You’re going to be bamboozled.”
Asked for his advice to aid mental health, he told the assembly of 250 students: “Don’t spend all day online. Seriously, don’t. For your mental health, get outside, come away from the screen. By all means, be on a screen but don’t be on it all day because it will only bring you into another world. It’s important that you balance the time.”
Speaking about about the importance of sharing feelings, he said, “It’s really important for boys. We’re not very good at talking about our emotions and how we feel. Girls have got a little bit better, and boys, we’ve really got to work hard on being able to talk to friends, family, and trusted people about how we feel.”
Hosted by YouTube influencer Dan Howell, the group of kids (ages 11 – 18) at Burlington Danes Academy were joined by youngsters from Kensington Aldridge Academy. KAA had been forced to close following the Grenfell Tower fire disaster in which 71 people died last summer. The royals have regularly involved those affected by the aftermath of the tragedy in their public outings.
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William spoke during the assembly about the royals’ Heads Together campaign on mental health. Met with applause from the schoolchildren, the royal dad was joined onstage at the school by British rapper Professor Green, who has helped in the royals’ mental health drive.
Her urged young people not to be “bystanders” when their friends are struggling, and instead to support each other. Told by Alex Holmes, from the Diana Award charity, that his mom calls Facebook “MyFace,” William laughed and said it “sums up the exact problem,” with kids trying to teach their parents about social media: “There is such a generational gap . . . we don’t know how to respond.”
Noting how often feelings can be hurt via text messages and social media, he said, “Unless you punctuate it correctly — I’m not the best at punctuation and I’m not the grammar police, either — you can read it in 100 different ways.”
The prince also met with social media influencers and young people who’ve been working on the campaign for Stop Speak Support – the digital code of conduct that he launched in the fall. It is one of the outcomes of the Royal Foundation’s Taskforce on Cyberbullying.