The Parent, Educator & Youth Guide to LGBTQ Cyberbullying

ConnectSafely.org, a US-based non-profit internet safety organisation, and conveners of the US Safer Internet Day (SID) Committee, has recently published "The Parent, Educator & Youth Guide to LGBTQ Cyberbullying", available for free online.

All young people deserve to grow up in a world where they are accepted, loved and treated with compassion, but sadly, that's not the case for everyone. Some young people are vulnerable to bullying, discrimination and abuse. That's especially true for groups that are marginalised, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

In the first detailed study of its kind to address incidents of cyberbullying on LGBTQ youth, Blumenfeld and Cooper, in 2012, found that:

  • 52 per cent of LGBTQ youth between the ages of 11 and 22 reported having been the targets of cyberbullying several times.
  • 54 per cent had been bullied about their sexual identity.
  • 37 per cent had been bullied about their gender identity or expression in the past 30 days.

Cyberbullying attacks included electronic distribution of humiliating photos, dissemination of false or private information, and targeting people in cruel online polls, among many other means of attack. More recent studies have further confirmed these unfortunate statistics.

While LGBTQ youth may be more vulnerable than others, cyberbullying affects everyone, even if they haven't been bullied themselves. Cyberbullying is bullying that happens online, often via social media and through mobile devices. Like "schoolyard bullying," it involves deliberate and repeated aggressive and hostile behaviours by an individual or group intended to humiliate, harm, and control another individual or group of lesser power or social status. There is often a connection between cyberbullying and physical bullying; it frequently starts in school and continues online, or vice versa.

This guide starts with a roundup of the top five questions - and answers - ConnectSafely receives from parents and educators on issues relating to LGBTQ cyberbullying. It then goes on to address some key concerns, outlining what parents and family members can do, and what schools can do to work towards a positive educational climate. It concludes by offering practical advice for LGBTQ youth who may be experiencing difficulties.

Cover image of the ConnectSafely "Parent, Educator & Youth guide to LTBTQ Cyberbullying". On the cover image: a sad-looking girl sitting on outside stairs with a hoody and leather jacket.

While this guide focuses on overcoming some of the negative effects of cyberbullying, it's important to remember that the internet is an incredibly important and helpful lifeline for many LGBTQ youth. For many, connected apps and services are their only or primary means of seeking support and communicating with others like themselves. Online media can offer a virtual window on a world that's free from many of the restraints imposed upon them within their local communities. Online forums can be places for support, understanding and compassion. That is one of the reasons why adults should think very carefully before restricting online access for LGBTQ youth, even if they are encountering harassment and threats.

The guide can be downloaded from the ConnectSafely.org website.

This article is based on a blog post which was originally published on the ConnectSafely website and is reproduced here with permission.


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