How to talk to children about Andrew Tate and other toxic views online
Psychologists from the BPS have reported a rise in teachers requesting help to support children and young people exposed to ‘toxic’ extreme views of social media influencers like Andrew Tate.
15 February 2023
Psychologists working with children and young people and within schools have warned that youngsters who lack self-confidence or self-esteem, or who are lonely and isolated, are at particular risk of being drawn to influencers like Tate as it could give them a sense of belonging and connection.
They stress the potentially damaging effects on children and young people of viewing harmful information ‘pushed’ their way, with some children believing that the content is personalised to them as it echoes certain messages already in existence in a young person’s life.
Educational psychologist and chartered member of the BPS Tim Watson says:
“Young people might be attracted to the likes of Tate because they lack the support mechanisms that can give them a sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
But young people need to be aware of ‘tricks with words’ that some influencers can use, including those that create a ‘them and us’ narrative and those that exploit youngsters’ fears or interests. It is important to hear the voices of young people. You need to have these conversations not from a place of fear but from a place of informed confidence.
Young people, regardless of gender, need to know they can speak honestly without the fear of being judged or shamed in any way. For teachers or other adults it is an opportunity to discuss any misconceptions, without ‘jumping in’ with what the adults may assume the young people have actually heard, read or seen.
With regards to Andrew Tate specifically, a healthy discussion may need to acknowledge why children and young people may look up to him – believing he is confident and successful – while helping them to recognise that offensive and abusive behaviour is never acceptable.”
Clinical psychologist, CEO of youth mental health charity stem4 and chartered member of the BPS Dr Nihara Krause adds:
“Young people may feel fear, shame and worry about blame after seeing distressing and toxic content being pushed at them by algorithms. It may make them feel nervous every time they go online or they may be constantly thinking about something they have seen. However despite these worrying issues there are things that teachers can do to support children, and for children and young people to do to help themselves.”
How can teachers and parent support children who view this content online?
- Parents and carers and teachers need to be aware of the emotional impact on young people of comments addressing group culture that might see perpetrators of these as ‘funny’ or ‘strong.’
- Encourage debate about the impact of belittling, degrading or sexualising others and about vulnerability as a strength.
- Help young people to be able to speak up rather than be silent. Discuss how peer pressure works and what fears people have about opposing a group view as well as how they can stand up for themselves.
- Schools should provide targeted learning for those most at risk of being drawn to influencers.
How can young people keep themselves safe from this content online?:
- Notice how information that’s pushed at you affects you. Make a note of it and acknowledge the negative impact it might be having.
- Train yourself to be more careful online. Check what you click on, positive over negative, non-sensational over sensational, for example.
- Have some self-care strategies. For example, click on some positive content to encourage algorithms to push more positive information your way, have a break, speak to someone who can support you.