Teenagers right this moment have grown up on the web, and social media has served as an area the place LGBTQ youth particularly can develop their identities.
Scholarship concerning the on-line experiences of LGBTQ youth has historically centered 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 youth social know-how and digital media use. My colleagues, Rachel Hodes and Amanda Richer, and I lately carried out a examine on the social media experiences of LGBTQ youth, and we discovered that on-line networks can present important sources 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 3 times extra more likely 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 kids 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. identified for legalizing homosexual marriage. Some social media platforms like Tumblr are thought of a safer haven for sexual minorities than others, particularly in the course of 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 probably than their straight friends to interact with their on-line mates. Conversely, LGBTQ youth usually tend to have mates they know solely on-line, and to understand these on-line mates as considerably extra socially supportive than their in-person mates.
The LGBTQ youth we surveyed in our examine had been extra more likely to be part of a web based group as a way to scale back social isolation or emotions of loneliness, suggesting that they had been in a position to attain out to and have interaction with social media networks outdoors of their in-person peer circles in supportive and fortifying methods.
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Regardless of dwelling in an space with greater ranges of acceptance towards sexual minorities, our examine individuals felt a have to maintain elements of their identities separate and hidden on-line. They had been much less probably than non-LGBTQ youngsters to be mates with members of the family on-line and extra more likely to be part of social media websites their mother and father would disapprove of. And about 39% mentioned that they had 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 can provide LGBTQ youth house to discover their sexual identities and promote psychological well-being.
In 2007, Australian researchers carried out one of many earliest research on how web communities function secure areas for LGBTQ youth who face hostile environments at residence. 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 apply floor for popping out, partaking with a communal homosexual tradition, experimenting with nonheterosexual intimacy and socializing with different LGBTQ youth.
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The web additionally supplies important sources about LGBTQ matters. LGBTQ youth might use on-line sources to coach themselves about sexual orientation and gender identification terminology, find out about gender transition and discover LGBTQ areas of their area people. The web may also be a great tool 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 a web based neighborhood supporting a social trigger. Whereas 68% of LGBTQ youth additionally volunteered in-person, 22% mentioned they solely felt comfy getting concerned on-line or by way of textual content. This alerts that on-line areas could also be important sources to foster civic engagement.
Whereas social media just isn’t with out its risks, it could actually usually function a software for LGBTQ youth to construct stronger connections to each their native and digital communities, and talk about social points essential to them.
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