A speech by The Duke of Cambridge at the Founders Forum 2016

Published 16 June 2016

I believe that, by your coming together creatively and openly to tackle bullying, you will be creating an enduring model for how the Internet should progress into the next stage of its development.

Thank you for that introduction and, Brent, thank you for inviting me here. 

The first thing I should say is that I've recorded England vs Wales at home so that I can watch it when I'm back there later, so please don't anyone give away the score to me in the next hour.  I mean it.  If you have an app on your phone to alert you to goal, you know what to do!  I would ask you to switch off your phones, but you're probably the wrong audience to ask that to. 

I must admit, like most people my age, I'd struggle without my smart phone – for news, sports, music and the odd bit of gaming.  And technology is a big part of my working life, too.  As an air ambulance pilot, I love the fact that the helicopter I fly is fitted out with some of the life-saving medical equipment; and I consider social media to be central to how the Royal Family communicates in the 21st century.    

A lot is said publically about the challenges that new technologies – particularly the Internet – can create for people, in terms of the spread of extremism, invasions into our privacy, and the security of our data.  Social media has also been the subject of scrutiny, for the way in which it can create a platform for trolling and other vicious behaviour.  But while new technology can of course create new problems, it is my belief that innovation in technology is a force for good, and that these advancements can do a lot more good than the harm that is often talked about. 

That is why it is a privilege to be addressing all of you here today, because you are the people who have the opportunity to advance the good that is possible.  

I turn 34 next week.  Every year of my life has seen huge changes in the way we communicate, do business, form relationships, and choose governments. These changes have made the world more transparent, our communities more engaged, and the barriers between cultures and countries easier to cross.  

It is you in this room, and those who back you, who have done more than almost anyone else to shape this new world around us.  Already I see that you are doing much to think ambitiously about how what you have created can still be celebrated in 100 or 200 years time.  The Founders Pledge – if successful, which I hope it will be – will embed a habit of philanthropy among entrepreneurs.  And many of you have already collaborated with charities and causes, including my own Royal Foundation, to reach new audiences in innovative and thoughtful ways.  

There is one issue that I want to ask for your assistance and energy, to help turn from a worrying challenge to an exciting opportunity – and that is how we protect children online.  Children and young people use the Internet more than almost any of us, but are too young, inexperienced or lacking in the maturity of adults to make the right judgments about what is and what is not safe.  

The particular issue that I ask for your help to tackle is bullying.  From a young age, I have detested bullying in all its forms. 

As Catherine and I started our family a few years ago, I was alarmed about the increasing reports of online bullying that were making headlines around the world. 

From the girls developing eating disorders after being subjected to a campaign of abuse on social media, to the teenage boys who took their own lives following constant targeting – as a parent myself, I was appalled.   

What we were seeing was that social media and messaging had transformed bullying from something that was not only the torment of the classroom and playground, but something that followed you home as well – to the one safe haven that children should have. 

I have to admit that at first I worried that technology companies might not be doing enough on this issue.   

But as I looked into this more, I realised that technology was also doing something positive.  It was bringing the quiet and often hidden tragedy of bullying into the open where we could finally see it. 

To school-age children today, there is no difference between their online and offline lives.  Bullying is bullying, wherever it happens.    

But now – thanks to the transparency that technology brings – we have the opportunities for others – friends, teachers, even strangers – to intervene; to speak up for the victims and to speak out against the bullies.  Digital technology is creating new opportunities for positive and encouraging stories to be shared and to let vulnerable people know that they are not alone. 

I have set up a taskforce chaired by Brent to develop a new, positive strategy to combat bullying.  We want to build on the good work that is happening around the technology sector, to make it better aligned and future proofed. 

I am delighted with the enthusiasm we have had, and the extraordinary array of people that Brent has assembled. Sadly he knows no-one at Apple yet but I'm trying to introduce him to someone.   We have a lot of work ahead of us, but by this time next year we expect to have a plan in place to achieve fundamental improvements in online safety for bullied children.  

So today I ask you for your ideas, your support, and your engagement with Brent's taskforce to tackle bullying.  Please do take the opportunity to get involved. 

 I believe that, by your coming together creatively and openly to tackle bullying, you will be creating an enduring model for how the Internet should progress into the next stage of its development. 

The Internet is new – for the general public, it's barely 20 years old.  So what we do now will mould this technology forever – so we must get our next steps right.  I think we have a chance to show that on this issue of bullying, technology can do more than create a patch for a problem it has presented; let's instead create an enduring, positive shift in our culture that could not have happened without technological advancement. 

Thank you very much for giving me the chance to talk to you, and I look forward to working with as many of you as possible.