student on computer

Cancel Culture?

The British press has recently been awash with articles related to teenagers and young adults and the effect of Cancel Culture on this generation’s students.

The amount of power that famous people, reality stars and so-called influencers appear to have on one of the most vulnerable age groups can be perceived as overwhelming. It is certainly extremely difficult to limit access or to control.

When having a recent discussion with our Lower Secondary-aged students about Twitter, I found it extremely interesting as to how knowledgeable they were about Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok and other social media platforms. It was remarkable how many people they followed or watched subconsciously without, apparently, thinking about what they had seen and been exposed to.

All outstanding schools should have in place elements of the ICT curriculum that looks at, considers and discusses internet safety. At our school, this is something that we reinforce through ongoing lessons.

However, as parents, we also have a responsibility to keep ourselves informed and updated in this ever-changing multimedia streaming world.

In fact, what is ever meant by ‘Cancel Culture’? The Oxford Dictionary cites:

cancel culture.

​the practice of excluding somebody from social or professional life by refusing to communicate with them online or in real life, because they have said or done something that other people do not agree with

  • Cancel culture punishes people who break the rules by saying the wrong thing.
  • The power of social media’s cancel culture can end a career within minutes.

However, the term itself is open to debate about the effect of how cancel culture exerts its power.

Is the mass cancelling of a person, institution or even a product through social media pressure really holding the perpetrator of wrong-doing accountable or is it mass bullying? One’s viewpoint of this, of course, will depend entirely on your individual point of view. It is here that I have concerns for the influence that mass cancel culture can have on teens and young adults.

Are the aforementioned really in a position to take a step back and consider the whole situation before being encouraged to take part in mass cancelling of a person, school friend or even institution?

It is important that we as parents and educators ensure that our children are able to think in a considered way before embarking on actions that may have far-reaching and long-term effects. Equally, there are a range of ways to ensure accountability, not merely through mass cancel culture behaviour.

I have read in UK educational journals about students who have been cancelled by an entire school for writing online an ill-advised post about a boyfriend or girlfriend. Frequently, this reaction has had severe mental health ramifications, and sometimes necessitated the moving of schools for the individual.

It was reported that the head of one school found it very hard to comprehend that the influence of online mass cancellations had infiltrated their school to such an extent that the entire school student body had completely ostracised a child and were unwilling to undo their actions.

Surely, in a civilised society, allowing someone to respond and apologise for such an error of judgement would have been acceptable. Of course, the head was in no way condoning the behaviour. However, the head felt that the way that the students had reacted was very much influenced by external forces that meant that they had no understanding of how out of proportion that their reactions were, or indeed their long-term effects.

Therefore, a lesson for us all. Absolutely everyone is accountable for their actions, what they say and how they act. However, how this is carried out is never effective if we attack or demean on a mass scale!

It is dangerous when you start telling people they can’t have an opinion on something. You don’t cancel someone, you engage with someone! – Alan Carr

By Penelope Best, Head of School,
Eupheus International School, Loulé