The Internet: A Source of Bullying and Coping for LGBT Youth

The Internet is everyone's frenemy. But for LGBT kids, the Internet can be a source of constant harassment and threats, a phenomenon all-too familiar in American media after countless suicides as a direct result of cyberbullying. A new study by the the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network corroborates that claim with statistics on LGBT cyberbullying, but with it, an increase in the number of LGBT youth turning to the online forums to seek peer support and medical information.

Some of the key findings on bullying:

  • LGBT youth are almost three times as likely as non-LGBT youth to say that they've been bullied online (42% vs. 15%)
  • 1 in 4 LGBT youth say they've been sexually harassed via text message, and 1 in 3 say they've been harassed online in the past year.
  • 1 in 4 said they've been bullied online specifically because of their gender expression in the past year

On the flip side, here are some of the refreshing statistics on the support LGBT youth find online:

  • LGBT youth are five times as likely as non-LGBT youth to have searched information online on sexuality
  • 81% of LGBT youth search for health and medical information online, compared to 46% of non-LGBT kids
  • 77% of LGBT youth have taken part in an online community that supports a cause
  • 68% have written a blog post or posted comments on a blog about a cause or issue
  • Two-thirds have used the Internet to connect with other LGBT people in the past year
  • 1 in 4 say they were more out online than in person

Dr. Michele Ybarra, President and Research Director of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, had this to say about the study:

"The Internet does not serve to simply reinforce the negative dynamics found offline regarding bullying and harassment. Rather, this technology also offers LGBT youth critical tools for coping with these negative experiences, including access to understanding and accepting friends, and exposure to health information that is unavailable elsewhere."

The main takeaway: the Internet means no one is truly alone. The report found that LGBT youth in rural areas experienced "substantially higher levels of victimization online and via text messages compared to LGBT youth in suburban and urban areas," but thanks to online forums, there's at least some sort of lifeline for help.

[GLSEN]

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