NEW YORK – LGBT youth experience nearly three times as much bullying and harassment online as non-LGBT youth, but also find greater peer support, access to health information and opportunities to be civically engaged, according to a new report released today by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
The study, “Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth on the Internet,” is based on national surveys of 5,680 students in 6-12th grade, and is the first to examine in-depth the experiences of LGBT youth online.
“The Internet impacts almost all aspects of our lives, but is particularly entrenched in the lives of youth, who are the most connected people online in our society,” said Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director.
“LGBT youth continue to face extraordinary obstacles in their day-to-day lives whether at school or online, but the Internet can be a valuable source of information and support when they have no one or nowhere else left to turn to. As social media evolve, so must our efforts to serve LGBT youth to ensure their safety, health and well-being,” she said.
“Out Online” reveals that LGBT youth were more likely than non-LGBT youth to be bullied or harassed online (42 percent vs. 15 percent) and twice as likely to say they had been bullied via text message (27 percent vs. 13 percent).
Survey respondents also reported they were as likely to report not feeling safe online (27 percent) as they were at school (30 percent) and while traveling to and from school (29 percent).
Online victimization contributed to negative self-esteem and higher depression Youth who experienced bullying and harassment both in person as well as online or via text message reported lower grade point averages, lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression than youth who were bullied only in person, only online or via text message, or not at all.
But despite experiences of bullying and harassment online, LGBT youth indicated the internet is also a space that offers safer opportunities to express who they are, find peer support and gain access to resources not necessarily available in person.
LGBT youth were more likely to have searched for health and medical information compared to non-LGBT youth (81 percent vs. 46 percent), and half (50 percent) reported having at least one close online friend, compared to only 19 percent of non-LGBT youth.
The full report is here (PDF).