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Building resilience to antisocial influences and influencers

Once again, the spectre of hate speech and online social manipulation has hit the news. This time with the arrest for sexual violence of the misogynist Andrew Tate. I have been struck again by the risk people like this pose to decent society.

We all have a responsibility to challenge attitudes and behaviours that conflict with our values – we are doing it in school through assemblies, tutor group discussions, PSHEE lessons and smaller group support. I would urge you to do the same at home.

No one likes being lectured or told they have been fooled by a con artist, so we should tread carefully if we are to be effective in challenging misinformation and manipulation. Here are five steps you could take to protect your children from these influences:

  1. Educate yourself – understand how algorithms feed personalised content to your children and know what they are looking at online

  2. Listen and understand – allow your child to speak openly about their influences and the reasons they feel the way they do – listen and ask questions

  3. Generalise the problem – don’t focus on Andrew Tate (there are and will be others), but discuss the motives behind influencers’ words and deeds

  4. Reflect on values – ask if these views are consistent with our family or community values and, if not, why would we tolerate them in our virtual lives

  5. Promote critical thinking – a healthy dose of scepticism is the best protection against misinformation of all kinds

Many young people struggle to find a meaning to their lives, and we all lack tolerance for the normal levels of suffering associated with being alive! These facts contribute to a worrying existential vacuum for young people.

Like Victor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning”, I believe the meaning of life is derived from taking responsibility for ourselves and others: Our purpose comes from the deeds that we do, the love for others, and the courage we show in adversity. These are the areas we must nurture in our children to reduce their vulnerabilities and to forge a sense of purpose.

Read Fraser Halliwell's contribution to Martha Alexander's article on 'How to talk to your children about Andrew Tate and online misogyny', published in the Evening Standard here.

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