French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has urged schools to “reinforce vigilance” against a cyberbullying campaign high-school seniors are waging against incoming juniors on TikTok and Twitter under the hashtag #Anti2010.

Some French sixth-graders born in 2010 will start secondary school this autumn, and they’ve reportedly been bombarded in recent weeks with abusive posts on TikTok and Twitter under the hashtag #Anti2010. Some 40 million posts used this hashtag until it was removed, AFP reported.

Minister Blanquer got involved this week. “A new phenomenon that has recently appeared on the social networks TikTok and Twitter encourages insults and threats by older peers towards children born in 2010,” he wrote in a letter to head teachers across the country. 

Blanquer encouraged schools to “be very attentive” and “reinforce vigilance” against the bullying campaign, and to discipline students caught participating in it. In a tweet on Thursday evening, Blanquer reminded concerned students and parents that they could report cyberbullying via dedicated phone numbers, telling them “Don’t let anything go.”

The minister’s concerns were shared by the main French parents’ federation, which stated that “while many children do not use the platforms, for those who do, it is clear that their mental and psychological health is in real danger.”

However, the country’s largest head teachers’ union, SNPDEN, reckons the minister and the parents are exaggerating. “We have not seen any incidents of this type in the schools,” SNPDEN Secretary-General Bruno Bobkiewicz told AFP. “None of the 70 heads of schools who met at a national conference this week had heard about this movement on social networks.”

The media attention on the #Anti2010 campaign prompted calls for tighter control of social networks. One commenter on Twitter wrote that “age verification and mandatory biometric identification” would “solve a lot of problems.” Others called for boycotts, with one commenter declaring that “everyone should close their account in support of child victims of this harassment.”

Whether the problem is as severe as Blanquer and the commenters make out, or as minor as the head teachers insist, the advent of social media has brought with it a rise in mental health disorders and cyberbullying among teens. In France earlier this year, 11 people were convicted of the online harassment and bullying of a teenage girl who posted an anti-Islam video to Instagram and TikTok. The girl described the threats from outraged Muslims as so severe that she had to change school and seek police protection.

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