On Monday I asked my young people’s advisory panel about Andrew Tate, the influencer whose controversial, and often misogynistic content has been widely discussed over the last few weeks.
My panel consists of young people aged 11-18 from all over Wales, who advise me and my team on our work and share their experiences and views with us.
What had they heard about Andrew Tate? Were they worried about what they’d seen or heard? What did they think should happen?
Here’s what they said:
‘Becoming more popular’
“I think he’s spreading his views and becoming more popular. People will start to understand and talk and accept his views more. Some of the things he talks about are not OK.”
“I feel like at this age, everyone’s quite impressionable. It’s one thing to see it online, but it’s even being talked about in school in PSE. We were taught about him but everyone was really excited. A load of people were agreeing with what he was saying. Some people in my form class aren’t sensible and were saying that he’s a good person and that they love him. People might say they love him to fit in with others.’
“It’s dangerous that he’s talked about in classes. I think a lot of teenagers idolize him because he has lots of money and luxury things in his life, but with this comes his attitudes and opinions about things like sexuality and being a woman. They are quite dangerous and it worries me that children can be impressionable to what he says. I’m worried about innocent children who are typically listening to this. I also don’t like how he uses his religion to justify misogyny and homophobia.”
‘Taking up so much space and time’
“I’m not in school environment to know what young people are seeing. But I’ve seen it on social media and it’s taking up so much space and time, which could be used to talk about constructive things that could help the world. In order for me to hear about it, not being in that environment, means it has spread into a general topic of conversation and engrained in society and conversation. That’s worrying.’
‘It’s divided a lot of people’
“We don’t talk about anything like that in sixth form because education around sexuality and society comes to an end once you turn 16. It’s divided a lot of people from having debates in friendship groups. It’s wrong.”
‘Lots of children are susceptible’
“It’s a danger that he’s polarizing. I’ve seen an article on BBC Cymru Fyw about a woman from south Wales telling a story about how her son was influenced by the things Andrew Tate said and adopted a lot of his attitudes. Young people are at risk of these things online, like lots of far-right extremism, lots of children are very susceptible. It’s wrong that his happens.”
‘I haven’t been taught about it in school so I’ve just been making assumptions based on hearing things from other people. Hearing it directly from teachers, who can tell us why what he’s doing is wrong, especially younger people [would be good]. They [young people] perhaps don’t understand how impactful what he’s saying is.’
Being taught about it
Maybe we should be taught about it. I couldn’t tell you anything. My school compared him to Harry Styles and how Andrew Tate is toxic masculine whereas as Harry Styles doesn’t have that. Comparing him to someone else who other people idolize like Harry Styles isn’t the best. We should be taught about what he’s doing and saying and why that’s wrong.
I think that with toxic masculinity, young people aged 12-13-14 might grow up in an environment where they’re told what to do and social conventions are more prominent. They’re victims of society in a sense. Obviously a lot of those feelings, perhaps self-hate about themselves, is projected in a different manner. Where they spout hate towards other groups like women and LGBTQ+. More of an internalized problem. More of a problem with younger years, in my year we deplore him. Everyone has the right to expression unless it interferes on someone’s life.
Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in Wales
Everybody in the group had heard of Andrew Tate, and they all said they were worried about his influence and the risk he poses to young people.
For me, it’s a strong illustration of why Wales’ compulsory new RSE education is so important. Young people need to learn about respectful relationships built on equality and empathy. They need to understand consent, and need to know what an unhealthy or abusive relationship looks like. And they also need safe spaces to challenge and be challenged about what they see or hear in the media, while respecting a range of opinions and perspectives. This will help them to stay safe, to live happy lives, and to think critically about messaging that contradicts those aims and
And while making sure we stand up to and call out harmful influencers in the strongest way possible, we also need to support those young people who may be ’taken in’ by their views. It’s one of the reasons why RSE is both urgent and essential, and why quality professional learning and support for teachers having these conversations with young people is so important.
This is a reminder of why new online safety regulations are a vital factor too. It’s not just him, there are a wide range of potentially harmful influencers who are active in online spaces. That’s why we need legislation that properly protects children from harmful content, and penalises the people and platforms who don’t comply.
There are a number of high-quality Welsh Government resources that cover a range of online safety matters, designed for young people, parents, and educators.
The ‘influencer effect’ resource contains expert advice for adults on managing the impact influencers might have on children and young people.