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Rio Ferdinand calls for new ‘inspiring’ online platform to combat child bullying

Rio Ferdinand poses for photographs with children at 10 Downing Street to celebrate the launch of the Diana Award’s annual anti-bullying campaign Don’t Face It Alone (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Rio Ferdinand poses for photographs with children at 10 Downing Street to celebrate the launch of the Diana Award’s annual anti-bullying campaign Don’t Face It Alone (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Rio Ferdinand has called for a new social media platform to be set up as he criticised tech giants for failing to get a grip on bullying and “toxic behaviours”.

The former England footballer, who suffered racial abuse as a child, said he wanted to stop his daughters going through the same experience.

He also backed the Government’s Online Safety Bill, which will allow Ofcom to fine companies up to 10% of their turnover if they fail to protect children online.

Ferdinand said: “Passing the online Bill will be a good start, making the social media platforms accountable for a lot of the online hate.

“Social media companies haven’t reacted in the positive way we anticipated they would, given some of the big news stories that have happened around social media and toxic behaviours.

“Hopefully the online Bill will help that – I don’t think it will eradicate everything completely, but we need to take good steps.”

Ferdinand made the comments at the launch of an anti-bullying campaign, Don’t Face It Alone, at No 10 Downing Street.

The programme, set up by The Diana Award, hopes to “stamp out” bullying after its research showed parents did not know how to counter online abuse.

Don’t Face It Alone anti-bullying initiative
Ferdinand said the myth of ‘perfect lives, perfect pictures, perfect stories’ seen online isn’t achievable (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

According to a poll of 1,400 people, almost six in 10 parents feel powerless to protect their children online.

A similar proportion of children said they would not tell their parents if they were bullied over the internet, while under half thought their parents could help.

Don’t Face It Alone has been backed by Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, but Ferdinand speculated that a new social media competitor could tackle online issues.

“Maybe I think another platform might be the answer that comes out of the woods,” he said.

“I think inspiring content and inspiring social media things is the way forward.

Rio Ferdinand poses for photographs with children at 10 Downing Street to celebrate the launch of the Diana Award’s annual anti-bullying campaign Don’t Face It Alone (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Rio Ferdinand poses for photographs with children at 10 Downing Street to celebrate the launch of the Diana Award’s annual anti-bullying campaign Don’t Face It Alone (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“A lot of the kids now – I’ve got kids myself – they go online and they’re trying to live up to an expectation that isn’t really achievable.

“Perfect lives, perfect pictures, perfect stories: that isn’t achievable and we need to change that.”

Boris Johnson thanked Ferdinand and the Diana Award for launching the campaign, which has been backed by the Government.

The Prime Minister said: “Bullying in any form is completely unacceptable and it can have a devastating, lifelong impact on young people.

“The more we do to encourage everyone to speak up against it, the easier it will be to stamp bullying out once and for all.”

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