Teenagers immediately have grown up on the web, and social media has served as an area the place LGBTQ youth specifically can develop their identities.
Scholarship in regards to the on-line experiences of LGBTQ youth has historically targeted on cyberbullying. However understanding each the dangers and the advantages of on-line help is essential to serving to LGBTQ youth thrive, each on- and offline.
I’m a senior analysis scientist learning the advantages and challenges of teen social know-how and digital media use. My colleagues, Rachel Hodes and Amanda Richer, and I just lately performed a examine on the social media experiences of LGBTQ youth, and we discovered that on-line networks can present vital assets for them to discover their identities and have interaction with others in the neighborhood.
The elevated danger of cyberbullying that LGBTQ youth face is well-documented. LGBTQ youth are nearly thrice extra doubtless to be harassed on-line than their straight, cisgender friends. This may end up in elevated charges of despair and emotions of suicide: 56% of sexual minorities expertise despair, and 35% expertise suicidal ideas as a direct results of cyberbullying.
Nonetheless, the digital panorama could also be shifting.
Our 2019 survey of 1,033 youngsters ages 10 to 16 discovered no distinction between the quantity of cyberbullying reported by straight versus sexual minority youth residing in a comparatively progressive a part of the U.S. recognized for legalizing homosexual marriage. Some social media platforms like Tumblr are thought-about a safer haven for sexual minorities than others, particularly through the COVID-19 lockdown. That is regardless of previous censorship of LGBTQ content material on sure platforms on account of biases within the algorithm.
LGBTQ youth are inclined to have smaller on-line social networks than their straight friends. We discovered that LGBTQ youth had been considerably much less doubtless than their straight friends to have interaction with their on-line pals. Conversely, LGBTQ youth usually tend to have pals they know solely on-line, and to understand these on-line pals as considerably extra socially supportive than their in-person pals.
The LGBTQ youth we surveyed in our examine had been extra more likely to be a part of an internet group as a way to scale back social isolation or emotions of loneliness, suggesting that they had been capable of attain out to and have interaction with social media networks outdoors of their in-person peer circles in supportive and fortifying methods.
Regardless of dwelling in an space with greater ranges of acceptance towards sexual minorities, our examine individuals felt a must preserve elements of their identities separate and hidden on-line. They had been much less doubtless than non-LGBTQ youngsters to be pals with relations on-line and extra more likely to be a part of social media websites their dad and mom would disapprove of. And about 39% mentioned they’d nobody to speak to about their sexual orientation in any respect.
Not simply surviving, however thriving on-line
Regardless of the danger of on-line harassment and isolation, social media may give LGBTQ youth area to discover their sexual identities and promote psychological well-being.
In 2007, Australian researchers performed one of many earliest research on how web communities function secure areas for LGBTQ youth who face hostile environments at dwelling. Their surveys of 958 youth ages 14 to 21 discovered that the anonymity and lack of geographic boundaries in digital areas present a really perfect follow floor for popping out, participating with a communal homosexual tradition, experimenting with nonheterosexual intimacy and socializing with different LGBTQ youth.
The web additionally gives vital assets about LGBTQ matters. LGBTQ youth might use on-line assets to coach themselves about sexual orientation and gender identification terminology, study gender transition and discover LGBTQ areas of their area people. The web can be a useful gizmo to establish LGBTQ-friendly physicians, therapists and different care suppliers.
Lastly, on-line platforms can function springboards for LGBTQ activism. A 2013 report by the Homosexual, Lesbian & Straight Training Community surveying 1,960 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 18 discovered that 77% had taken half in an internet group supporting a social trigger. Whereas 68% of LGBTQ youth additionally volunteered in-person, 22% mentioned they solely felt snug getting concerned on-line or through textual content. This alerts that on-line areas could also be vital assets to foster civic engagement.
Whereas social media will not be with out its risks, it might probably usually function a software for LGBTQ youth to construct stronger connections to each their native and digital communities, and talk about social points vital to them.
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