Bullied herself online, Britain’s Princess Beatrice is determined to ensure other girls are equipped to deal with internet abuse and get the best from the digital world.
Beatrice — who as the eldest daughter of Prince Andrew and his former wife, the Duchess of York, is eighth in line to the British throne — said her bullying, about her weight and her appearance, were very public and could not be ignored.
But she said other girls faced this in private and needed to be encouraged to speak out and to know where to get support, which prompted her to get involved in campaigns against cyber bullying.
A recent study by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center found about 60 percent of U.S. teens had been bullied or harassed online, with girls more likely to be the targets of online rumor-spreading or nonconsensual explicit messages.
“You’d like to say don’t pay attention to it … but the best advice is to talk about it,” Beatrice, 30, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during an interview on Wednesday at the Web Summit, Europe’s largest annual technology conference.
“Being a young girl, but now being 30 and a woman working full time in technology, I feel very grateful for those experiences. But at that time it was very challenging.”
Beatrice, who works at the U.S.-based software company Afiniti, co-founded the Big Change Charitable Trust with a group of friends, including two of Richard Branson’s children, in 2010 to support young people who also grew up in the public eye.
She also last year joined the anti-bullying campaign “Be Cool Be Nice” along with other celebrities such as Kendall Jenner and Cara Delevingne, which included a book.
“There are lots of people who are ready to help and I want to make sure young people feel they have the places to go to talk about it,” said Beatrice, adding that teachers and parents also had a role to play.
Beatrice said her bullying was so public that she could not hide from it, but her mother, Sarah Ferguson, was a great source of support.
One of the most public attacks on the princess was at the 2011 wedding of her cousin Prince William when her fascinator sparked a barrage of media attention. A month later she auctioned the hat for charity for 81,000 pounds ($106,500).
Her mother, who divorced Prince Andrew in 1996, had to get used to unrelenting ribbing by Britain’s royal-obsessed media.
“She has been through a lot,” said Beatrice, whose younger sister, Eugenie, married at Windsor Castle last month.
“When you see role models who are continually put in very challenging situations and can support you … [then] some of the tools that I have had from her I would like to share.”
Beatrice said mobile technology should be a force for good for girls in developed and developing countries, presenting new opportunities in terms of education, careers and health.
“Social media and the pressures that these young people now face is a new phenomenon … and if I can do more to give young people the tools [to cope], that is my mission,” she said.
“I would say to young girls: You are not alone. Keep going.”