The internet is an amazing resource for young people to access vital information and to connect with other young people they identify with. This can be especially important for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) young people, who we know can often experience bullying and isolation from their peers and lack information and support on LGBT issues.
Unfortunately, for LGBT young people in particular, the very places they might go to for support (such as social media sites) may instead send homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and abuse their way. We know that three quarters of LGBTQ young people have experienced name calling (Metro Youth Chances 2014) and a quarter of lesbian, gay and bi young people experience bullying online (The School Report 2012). You don’t need to spend much time on the website No Homophobes to see just how prevalent homophobic and biphobic abuse is on the social media website Twitter alone (‘that’s so gay!’ sometimes shortened to ‘TSG’ being one of the most common forms of abuse).
Spikes in online homophobia, biphobia and transphobia coincide with days when celebrities, such as Olympic athlete Tom Daley, come out to the public. This resonates with recent YouGov polling for Stonewall, which revealed that 1 in 5 people admit to making offensive remarks about LGBT people in the last year. In the last month alone, 30 per cent of people have heard offensive remarks about LGBT people, but 63 per cent didn’t do anything about it.
So, what can we do to help make the internet a better place for LGBT young people?
Safer Internet Day (SID) on 9 February is an opportunity to promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people. This the team behind SID is asking individuals and organisations to play your part for a better internet.
“If you can’t say something nice… don’t say anything at all.” I grew up listening to this simple message from Disney’s Thumper, from the film Bambi. It might be a bit late for New Year’s resolutions, but why don’t we promise to be nice to each other online (and offline) in 2016, and beyond?
We can even go beyond our dear friend Thumper the rabbit’s words and not be a bystander to bullying and abusive language online. We’ve put together some simple tipson how to be brave, be kind, be heard and step up to online bullying and abuse this Safer Internet Day.
Share kind messages online with the SID hashtag #shareaheart and show your support to visible LGBT role models like Tom Daley, Laverne Cox and Ellen Page who speak out against the online hate.
Safer Internet Day is co-ordinated by the UK Safer Internet Centre and Childnet International. They have lots of information and resources for young people, schools, organisations, parents and carers at Safer Internet Day.
You can also download and read Stonewall’s Staying Safe Online Guide for more information on online safety for young people.