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Mother whose teenage son was driven to suicide by online trolls tells of her heartbreaking loss

Felix was my smiling boy. In every single family photo, it’s Felix who has the biggest grin on his face — the sort of wonderful, engaging smile that warms your heart.

In my favourite photo — one of the last that was ever taken of him — he’s sporting a baseball hat and a huge smile. I look at it every night before I go to bed. I look at it and wonder how many more children like Felix are going to be bullied to death.

Felix took his own life in April 2016. He was just 17 and had been so badly damaged by years of torment, he couldn’t see a happy future.

My beautiful, smiley son had been hounded by bullies since primary school. It’s hard to know why or how it began. The only thing I can put my finger on is a silly playground squabble.

 

Felix Alexander, 17, died when he stepped in front of a train near his home in Worcester in April 2016

Pictured is Felix (ringed), with his parents Lucy (second left) and Ratan (centre) and sister Charlotte (second right) and Ben (right)

Pictured is Felix (ringed), with his parents Lucy (second left) and Ratan (centre) and sister Charlotte (second right) and Ben (right)

His dad and I wouldn’t let him have the 18-rated video game Call Of Duty because we thought it was too violent.

Felix must have explained this to the other kids and they started teasing him over it. One called him a ‘p***y’.

But, quite honestly, it was one of many incidents too insignificant to put my finger on. It was death by 1,000 cuts.

Over the next few months, we realised he was always trying to impress. He tried being the class clown, or the whipping boy — anything to fit in. He’d say: ‘No one likes me as I am.’

We thought it would get better when he went to senior school, but it didn’t. Then, at 14, social media kicked in — particularly sites such as ask.fm — and the bullying became unstoppable.

His peers would be having vile, anonymous conversations about him. We’d remove all access to computers to prevent him seeing it, but he would get up in the night to look at his iPad.

He felt he had to know everything to feel armed against it.

He was told he was ugly and worthless. There were some really hurtful comments, even from so-called ‘nice’ kids from lovely families. I’m sure they didn’t give it a moment’s thought. They just have no filter.

What they think comes out on their screen, where it doesn’t feel real because they aren’t doing it face-to-face. It was a hate fest.

If Felix tried to find friends outside school, these children would get text messages saying: ‘Do you want to be friends with the most hated boy in school?’

Lucy Alexander went on ITV's This Morning to speak about her son Felix, she held back her tears as she saw an image of her son

Lucy Alexander went on ITV’s This Morning to speak about her son Felix, she held back her tears as she saw an image of her son

As the mum of this lovely, kind, gorgeous boy, it made no sense to me. But it was real. They made him feel truly hated. It was all so new and unexpected that I didn’t have a clue how to sort it out. I felt alone and helpless in this world of cyberbullying. I simply didn’t understand.

I fear that this is still the problem for many parents. We aren’t clued up enough. It’s my biggest regret. I should have taken the problem much more seriously. I was made to feel it was my problem, not society’s. I should have been more forceful in involving the school. But there was just no machinery to make it better. We were made to feel that it was something lacking in us that had made it happen.

I should have talked to his friendship groups — made them see the pain they were causing. I should have involved the police.

Off our own bats, we sent Felix to a psychotherapist. He saw her once a week and she helped teach him coping mechanisms and worked on his self-esteem.

But the damage had been done. I could count the number of parties Felix went to on one hand. That became his identity: the boy everyone hated.

Finally, we persuaded him to move to a new school for sixth form. It was a fresh start. He made new friends. Teachers found him to be bright, kind and caring. He went on a skiing trip with pals. He went out with friends. That lovely photo of him which has pride of place in my sitting room was taken on a trip to Birmingham with a friend, just six months before he died.

We thought the problem was in the past, but the truth is Felix couldn’t escape the past. He saw slights where there were none. I’ve been told that when someone is suicidal, there may be a period of relative calm before the event. And that’s what happened. Felix tidied his room, gathered his most treasured possessions in a little box — photos, a ticket to the school winter ball.

That night, we snuggled up together on the sofa and watched TV — and in the morning, we sent each other texts. ‘I love you Mum,’ he wrote.

And then, at 9am, I got a call from the school saying that Felix hadn’t appeared for class. My husband and I went looking for him. We still had no idea.

Two hours later, the police contacted us. Felix had been struck by a train on the railway line. He was dead.

The torment continued when he wasn't allowed to play violent video game Call Of Duty, above

The torment continued when he wasn’t allowed to play violent video game Call Of Duty, above

Classmates at the £13,000-a-year King's School (pictured) teased him because he was not allowed to play violent video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Classmates at the £13,000-a-year King’s School (pictured) teased him because he was not allowed to play violent video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

After my son died, I knew I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. For his sake, and for all the other victims, I have to ensure some good comes out of it.

That’s why I am so thrilled that Prince William is working so hard to counter cyberbullying. He has given victims a voice. Thanks to his involvement, people are talking much more openly about their hurt.

It can no longer be just a dirty secret — which is how we were made to feel. But the truth, as Prince William acknowledges, is that instead of waiting for internet companies to act, we all have to play a part: parents, teachers and children.

We have a media culture that is really unkind. Just look at reality TV. On programmes such as Big Brother and Love Island, it’s the mean, nasty people who get all the airtime. The nice, kind people get pushed out.

Children model their behaviour on what they see — and, by and large, people see adults bullying each other. Bullying is increasing and becoming easier to do.

Since Felix’s death, I have been working closely with the charity Place2Be, which offers mental health counselling to young people. I’ve also been talking to schools and other interested groups about the effects of cyberbullying and how to counter it.

At the end of one talk, a girl got in touch: ‘You made me realise that I haven’t always been kind,’ she said. That really resonated.

I don’t hold any single person to blame for Felix’s death. It was a cumulative effect: the endless drip, drip that finally felt like a tidal wave of hate.

Our children need to understand that actions have consequences and that people can be wounded, sometimes fatally. It’s not up to the internet giants alone: it’s up to all of us. If we do nothing, more children will die.

For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit a Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details.

Prince William accuses Facebook of putting ‘profits before values’ as he slams social media giants for being ‘on the back foot’ in fight against fake news, privacy and cyber-bullying 

By Joseph Curtis for MailOnline 

Prince William has accused social media giants of being ‘on the back foot’ when it comes to tackling fake news, privacy and cyber-bullying.

The Duke of Cambridge added ‘shareholders and profits’ were ‘distracting’ firms from the ‘values that made them so successful in the first place’.

In a hard-hitting speech he said technology firms ‘still have a great deal to learn’ about their responsibilities and challenged them to fight harder against ‘poison’ spread online.

Making a speech at Broadcasting House, pictured, William said giant online firms had become 'distracted' from their values by 'shareholders and profit'

Making a speech at Broadcasting House, pictured, William said giant online firms had become ‘distracted’ from their values by ‘shareholders and profit’

The Duke and Duchess, right, were welcomed by BBC Director General Tony Hall, second left, and Director of BBC Children's Alice Webb

The Duke and Duchess, right, were welcomed by BBC Director General Tony Hall, second left, and Director of BBC Children’s Alice Webb

Prince William said he believed tech leaders were ‘people of integrity’ but appeared to be unwilling to properly tackle issues from cyber-bullying to privacy and hate speech.

He was speaking during a visit to the BBC in London to view the work the broadcaster is doing as a member of his Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyber-bullying while also highlighting Anti-Bullying Week.

He said ‘widespread optimism’ that arose when the internet first became a fixture of modern life has given way to ‘concern and fear’.

The Duke of Cambridge added: ‘The noise of shareholders, bottom lines, and profits is distracting them from the values that made them so successful in the first place.

‘They are so proud of what they have built that they cannot hear the growing concern from their users.

‘And increasingly they seemed resigned to a posture with governments and regulators that will be defined by conflict and discord. It does not have to be this way.’

William also said the internet carried many double edges swords that brought as many risks as rewards.

William, pictured with Kate in London, added 'widespread optimism' that arose when the internet first became a fixture of modern life has given way to 'concern and fear'

William, pictured with Kate in London, added ‘widespread optimism’ that arose when the internet first became a fixture of modern life has given way to ‘concern and fear’

The Prince and Kate, pictured with Lord Hall and Ms Webb at Broadcasting House, were at the BBC to see its progress as a member of the Duke's Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyber-bullying

The Prince and Kate, pictured with Lord Hall and Ms Webb at Broadcasting House, were at the BBC to see its progress as a member of the Duke’s Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyber-bullying

The Prince added: ‘We have seen that the technology that can allow you to develop an online community around a shared hobby or interest can also be used to organise violence.

‘The platform that can allow you to celebrate diversity can also be used to cocoon yourself in a cultural and political echo chamber.

‘The new ways we have to access news from across the world are also allowing misinformation and conspiracy to pollute the public sphere.

‘And the apps we use to make new friends can also allow bullies to follow their targets even after they have left the classroom or the playing field.’

William, who was with the Duchess of Cambridge, set up his taskforce to stop cyber-bullying among schoolchildren in May 2016.

The couple met youths who wrote and performed a new video for Stop, Speak, Support, a campaign being introduced in schools providing guidance for children on what to do when they see bullying online. 

The Prince said he had been moved after meeting bereaved parents of bullied children who had taken their own lives.

He said social media companies had ‘done more to connect the world than has ever been achieved in human history’.

But he added: ‘I am worried, though, that our technology companies still have a great deal to learn about the responsibilities that come with their significant power.

‘I say this not in anger. Again, I believe our tech leaders are people of integrity who are bringing many benefits to our lives and societies.

‘I am very concerned though that on every challenge they face – fake news, extremism, polarisation, hate speech, trolling, mental health, privacy, and bullying – our tech leaders seem to be on the back foot. 

William, pictured with Kate in London, said social media giants were 'on the back foot' on issues including privacy and hate speech

William, pictured with Kate in London, said social media giants were ‘on the back foot’ on issues including privacy and hate speech

The Duke, pictured with Ms Webb, also tried out a new app designed to combat online bullying

The Duke, pictured with Ms Webb, also tried out a new app designed to combat online bullying

‘Their self-image is so grounded in their positive power for good that they seem unable to engage in constructive discussion about the social problems they are creating.’

The Duchess wore her second recycled outfit in a week, donning a £1,200 dress by Emilia Wickstead which she wore previously in 2014 and 2015, and is from the British designer’s AW13 collection.

She teamed the simple teal number, which boasted a stylish pleated skirt, with Asprey London leaf hoop earrings and black suede Gianvito Rossi pumps while debuting a subtle side parting.

The couple made a surprise appearance on The One Show sofa where they joined Ellie, Eliza and Cameron from Wormholt Park Primary School for a discussion on the upcoming Kids Online Wellbeing app.

Afterwards, they joined BBC director general Lord Hall and director of BBC Children’s Alice Webb to try out the app for themselves. 

William and The Royal Foundation convened the Taskforce in May 2016, to support young people and their families affected by cyberbullying, with a focus on 11-16 year olds.

Chaired by tech entrepreneur Brent Hoberman CBE, the Taskforce members include The Anti-Bullying Alliance, Apple, BT and The Diana Award.

Also involved are EE, Facebook, Google, Internet Matters, Music.ly, NSPCC; O2, Sky, Snapchat, Supercell, TalkTalk, Three, Twitter, Vodafone and Virgin Media.

The couple’s visit today marked the second official engagement in what is shaping up to be a busy week, after Kate and William visited South Yorkshire on Wednesday.

And just last night, they were spotted arriving at Buckingham Palace for a star-studded dinner and reception held in honour of the Prince of Wales’ birthday.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk