Facebook is to offer digital safety ambassadors to every secondary school in the UK as part of a new partnership with youth charities
The social media giant will work with Childnet International and The Diana Award to train pupils in more than 4,500 schools as digital leaders and anti-bullying ambassadors over the next two years.
The announcement comes after the publication of new research which found almost two thirds of 13 to 17-year-olds (63%) said they wanted more peer-led online education programmes in schools.
The new programme will offer pupils access to face-to-face training, online resources and forums.
Facebook’s head of global safety policy Antigone Davis said: “This partnership is the next step in our ongoing effort to help young people build safe and supportive communities.
“Over the last decade, we have developed a wealth of innovative resources on Facebook that enable young people to look after themselves and their peers, from our updated Safety Centre, to our online reporting tools.
“By offering trained digital safety ambassadors to every UK secondary school we are now taking this commitment offline too.”
A physical experience called House of Us has also been launched in London, which contains exhibits designed to highlight the online safety challenges young people face, Facebook said.
It includes an audio maze that “evokes feelings of being bullied”.
The new research from ResearchBods also found that young people were more likely to confide in a peer than a parent of teacher, with 55% saying they would rather deal with an issue alone than speak to an adult.
Sixty three per cent also said they would like to see their school involve more young people in educating students about using social media safely.
Culture secretary Karen Bradley said the new programme formed part of government plans to make the UK the “safest place in the world” to be online.
“It’s fantastic that Facebook have committed to providing digital ambassadors, these students in schools will help give their peers the tools they need to stay safe and tackle issues such as cyberbullying,” she said.
“The internet has many amazing opportunities for our young people but what is unacceptable offline needs to be unacceptable on a computer screen.
“Our Internet Safety Strategy aims to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and working together with companies like Facebook is how we can all contribute to a positive online environment.”
The Government has previously criticised Facebook and other internet companies including Twitter and Google over their role in combating abuse and extremism online – practices the technology giants have admitted they still need to improve.
Tessy Ojo, chief executive of The Diana Award said: “Facebook’s support will enable us to upscale our work empowering 20,000 more young people to stand up to all forms of bullying and protect their peers over the next two years.
“Our tried and tested peer-led approach has transformed the lives of thousands of young people in schools across the UK and Ireland who spend 11,000 hours of their lives in education.
“We know that what happens offline often extends to young people’s online world, this is why we are proud to partner with Facebook, creating a community of young people who will help shape the behaviour and attitude of their peers, as well as take responsibility for the wellbeing of their peers.
“We know that with our support, these young anti-bullying ambassadors have the power to close the empathy gap and encourage positive behaviour choices online and offline.”