Ipswich: Line of Duty star Keeley Hawes on internet safety, depression and her UCS degree

Actress Keeley Hawes, receiving an honorary degree from University Campus Suffolk

Actress Keeley Hawes, receiving an honorary degree from University Campus Suffolk - Credit: Archant

Like all mothers, actress Keeley Hawes worries about what her children see online and the increasing pressure the internet age puts on them.

Matthew MacFadyen and wife Keeley Hawes in Spooks

Matthew MacFadyen and wife Keeley Hawes in Spooks - Credit: KUDOS

“I’ve got a 14-year-old son, a nine-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old son, so I’ve got the full gamut of kids who can get into all sorts of trouble on the internet,” said the Spooks star. “I can really relate to it and the problems they can have.”

Hawes, one of 11 people getting honorary awards from University Campus Suffolk (UCS) for outstanding contribution within their field during this year’s graduation ceremonies, is now an ambassador for the charity Childnet International which aims to make the internet a safer place for children.

“My 14-year-old... I have a look at his phone, he knows, I don’t just look, is very open with me about it and I really don’t envy them growing up in this technological age. The amount of pressure you have with various apps, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, some of them are on Twitter - it’s a constant thing.

“(You can) get caught in these traps (where) you’re led to believe it’s only five seconds; of course it isn’t, nothing is only there (online) for five seconds... You can take a screen grab and then you’ve got that picture of whoever forever,” added Hawes, who helped launch the Childnet’s guide about music, film, TV and the internet last year and does similar awareness-raising work with UNICEF.

“I don’t envy them (youngsters), there’s a helluva lot of pressure to be involved with all of that (social media). It’s the way their world is going so you just have to be as on top of it as you can possibly can.

“I get quite stressed having to reply to texts and e-mails relating to my work or the kids’ schools... My 14-year-old didn’t have his phone for a few days and I said ‘how does it feel’ and he said ‘it’s quite a relief’.”

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She and UCS share an established relationship with Childnet International via UCS academic Dr Emma Bond, who has been working with the charity since 2005, spending two years on secondment to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute writing guidelines for service providers on children’s use of ICT in Europe.

Dr Bond’s research on children’s perceptions of risk and mobile mobiles and, more recently, the study on pro-anorexia communities online, undertaken in partnership with Childnet, attracted considerable international media and academic acclaim. She’s still working closely with Childnet and recently gave the keynote address to the leading European network Insafe conference in Lithuania which focused specifically on some of the wider challenges young people face today, including self-harm, eating disorders, sexting and revenge pornography.

UCS has also worked in close collaboration with governments and non-governmental organisations, children’s charities like Childnet and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and industry stakeholders in London, Brussels and Nice on a variety of research projects and awareness raising initiatives to protect children and young people online.

Ashes to Ashes actress Hawes recently also helped raised awareness of mental health issues, with one in four of us estimated to experience some kind of problem in our lives.

Opening up to Red magazine’s Amy Raphael, she said she could relate to her character detective Lindsay Denton in Line of Duty, admitting she’s suffered from depression since she was a teenager.

“It wasn’t something I set out to reveal about myself, but I’m certainly not worried about the fact I have admitted it. It’s had a really positive impact on Twitter, so many hundreds of people saying thanks, so that’s really nice.”

It’s a subject, she agrees, people are afraid to talk about. Because it’s not something you can see or be diagnosed the way other physical ilnesses can there’s still this stigma around it.

Rather than being seen as something you have no control over, you’re made to feel like you’ve failed.

“That’s part of what it does to you as well... you feel you’re not good enough, all of those things; so it’s a bit of a circle that goes around because you’re made to feel like that and that is how you feel.

“I’m not embarrassed (talking about it), maybe when I was a bit younger I would have been... Also, there’s the thing of ‘what have you got to be depressed about’,” said Hawes, who thinks the word depression is bandied about and used too loosely these days.

“You see successful people, living lovely lives... I live a lovely life, I’m incredibly lucky and I’ve got a degree,” she laughed.

Seen more recently as the menacing Ms Delphox in Doctor Who - “That was just a riot, such good fun. I loved it and for once it was something my children can watch” - she was surprised but delighted to get the degree.

“I went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School, so the emphasis wasn’t 100% on the academic side of things. I wasn’t bottom of the class, but I wasn’t at the top either... I came out with a few GCSEs I’d rather forget about,” laughed Hawes, looking forward to collecting her award in front of her fellow actor husband Matthew Macfadyen, who she met on the set of Spooks.

“I can’t tell you how genuinely thrilling it is to actually receive something that makes me feel a little bit clever. Thank you to University Campus Suffolk, I can’t wait to come along, stand alongside the incredible graduates who worked so hard for their degrees, pick up my degree and start showing it off to everyone I meet.”

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