Honorary Doctorate For Anti Bullying Campaigner

19 January 2018, 09:11

gets degree

An anti-bullying campaigner who thinks children need a guide for healthy ways to use Instagram has been made a university's youngest ever honorary graduate.

Liam Hackett, founder of Brighton-based charity Ditch The Label, will formally accept the accolade at a ceremony at the University of Sussex on Friday, his 27th birthday.

He will be made doctor of the university by the business school where he completed his undergraduate degree five years ago.

Mr Hackett said: "It is a huge honour to accept this, particularly knowing I am the youngest to receive it. It's very emotional.

"Most people receive these awards towards the end of their careers. I think it's great for students to see someone nearer their age to receive one to show everyone has opportunities with hard graft.

"It is a great university and I have a great relationship with them."

The university says the title pays tribute to his "remarkable achievements" in helping hundreds of thousands of young people.

He came up with the idea aged 16 after using MySpace to reach out to others while he was being bullied at school and expanded the plan while studying for his business and management degree at the university.

It has now grown into a global charity, supporting children living in America, Mexico as well as the UK, with hundreds of thousands of children accessing its website for guidance.

The charity encourages 12 to 25-year-olds to stand up for what is right and avoids "clinical" support and putting too much emphasis on people being victims.

Mr Hackett prides himself on the organisation's branding, which has been argued to look more like a fashion label than a charity.

It has been behind research over the last two years which suggested one in two gamers have experienced bulling while playing online, that politics is the subject most like to provoke bullying insults and nearly a quarter of young people who have been targeted go on to bully others.

Now he thinks youngsters need to be taught critical thinking skills for using Instagram, where he claims supposedly aspirational posts can have a detrimental affect on a viewers' mental health and self esteem.

He says research suggests it is a prominent network for cyber bullying, adding: "Instagram isn't good or bad, it's how you use it. We need to educate young people about how they take in the information on social media. People only show what they want you to see online.

"People talk about the pitfalls of social media but we have seen it is also a powerful tool to influence social change and give a platform for everyone to speak out."

He also thinks Donald Trump should set a better example in what he endorses on Twitter.

University vice-chancellor Professor Adam Tickell said: "Liam Hackett is an excellent example of the values we hold dear here at the University of Sussex.

"His drive to help other young people and his innovation and determination to succeed make him worthy of being our youngest ever honorary graduate.

"I know we have many other students graduating today who do or will go on to do equally inspiring things."