LONDON (Reuters) – Facebook said on Monday it would fund young “digital safety ambassadors” in every secondary school in Britain to help students tackle cyber bullying and other online dangers.
The U.S company is partnering charities The Diana Award and Childnet International to train young people to act as mentors in 4,500 schools over the next two years, it said.
Facebook’s head of global safety policy Antigone Davis said the social network had already developed safety features on the platform, such as online reporting tools, and it was now taking that commitment offline.
“We’ve heard from kids that actually three out of four of them would prefer to talk to somebody their own age about these issues, so giving young people the skills they need to be that kind of a mentor is really important to us,” she said.
Nearly all cases of cyber bullying were linked to people known to victims from school or other parts of their lives, she said.
As well as giving children the tools to cope with bullying on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, the programme will also tackle online grooming and other dangers.
It will receive 1 million pounds ($1.33 million) of funding from Facebook.
“As industry leaders we take this very, very seriously,” Davis said. “People won’t utilize our platform if they don’t feel safe to do so.”
Digital ambassadors at Wath Comprehensive School in Rotherham, northern England, said they had already seen positive benefits both for themselves and for other students.
Fifteen-year-old Poppy, one of several schoolchildren at the launch of the programme, told Reuters she had been worried about some of the online dangers she’d heard about.
“I am more positive in myself and in my abilities, and a lot more confident in using the internet,” she said, adding that she wanted to pass on her experience to others.
Fellow student Patrick, also aged 15, said he had learned about topics ranging from fake news to online risks through the programme.
(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Richard Balmforth)