Social Media Offers Help to LGBTQ Youth When In-Individual Communities Are Missing

By Linda Charmaraman, Wellesley Faculty

Teenagers at the 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 in regards to 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 finding out the advantages and challenges of teen social expertise and digital media use. My colleagues, Rachel Hodes and Amanda Richer, and I not too long ago performed a examine on the social media experiences of LGBTQ youth, and we discovered that on-line networks can present vital sources for them to discover their identities and interact with others in the neighborhood.

Past cyberbullying

The elevated threat of cyberbullying that LGBTQ youth face is well-documented. LGBTQ youth are virtually 3 times extra possible to be harassed on-line than their straight, cisgender friends. This may end up in elevated charges of melancholy and emotions of suicide: 56% of sexual minorities expertise melancholy, 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. 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 because 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 have been considerably much less possible than their straight friends to interact with their on-line buddies. Conversely, LGBTQ youth usually tend to have buddies they know solely on-line, and to understand these on-line buddies as considerably extra socially supportive than their in-person buddies.

The LGBTQ youth we surveyed in our examine have been extra prone to be part of an internet group as a way to scale back social isolation or emotions of loneliness, suggesting that they have been in a position to attain out to and interact with social media networks exterior of their in-person peer circles in supportive and fortifying methods.

Regardless of dwelling in an space with larger ranges of acceptance towards sexual minorities, our examine contributors felt a must hold elements of their identities separate and hidden on-line. They have been much less possible than non-LGBTQ children to be buddies with members of the family on-line and extra prone 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 chance 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 performed one of many earliest research on how web communities function protected areas for LGBTQ youth who face hostile environments at house. Their surveys of 958 youth ages 14 to 21 discovered that the anonymity and lack of geographic boundaries in digital areas present a great follow floor for popping out, participating with a communal homosexual tradition, experimenting with nonheterosexual intimacy and socializing with different LGBTQ youth.

The web additionally supplies vital sources about LGBTQ subjects. LGBTQ youth could use on-line sources to teach themselves about sexual orientation and gender id terminology, study gender transition and discover LGBTQ areas of their local people. The web can be a great tool to determine 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 Schooling Community surveying 1,960 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 18 discovered that 77% had taken half in an internet 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 indicators that on-line areas could also be vital sources to foster civic engagement.

Whereas social media just isn’t with out its risks, it will possibly typically function a device for LGBTQ youth to construct stronger connections to each their native and digital communities, and talk about social points necessary to them.

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Linda Charmaraman, Director of Youth, Media & Wellbeing Analysis Lab, Wellesley Faculty

This text is republished from The Dialog underneath a Artistic Commons license. Learn the unique article.

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