Nearly three quarters of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people use the internet to meet others like themselves. For many, it is their only source of information and support on gay issues, or contact with other LGB youth.
However, it can also put young people at great risk of things such as cyberbulling, grooming and sexual exploitation.
In partnership with o2, Stonewall is releasing guidance for parents and teachers to help young LGB people stay safe online.
Tomorrow (11 February), information will be sent out to secondary schools across the country as a response to the statstics that show young gay people are at high risk of cyber bullying.
It is estimated almost one in four LGB teens have been a victim of online abuse.
‘As a leading communications company in a digital world, we think businesses need to do more to support young people,’ said Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer at Telefónica. ‘This means not only helping them make the most of their digital skills, but helping them to be safe online’.
Online abuse has been shown to have a serious affect on the self-esteem of vulnerable young people, and in the worst cases can impact on mental health and lead to self-harm and suicide.
In association with Childline, Stonewall has also researched the rise of ‘sexting’ amongst gay young people, and found concerning trends and statistics.
Stonewall’s Acting Chief Executive Ruth Hunt said: ‘It’s disturbing but unsurprising to see these deeply worrying statistics.
'The internet can be a real lifeline for lesbian, gay and bisexual young people who feel isolated and alone. However, sadly, it also leaves them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation’.
59% of young gay people surveyed had taken sexual photos or videos of themselves, compared to 40% of straight young people. Of the 59%, 47% had shared such material with people they had never met in real life.
‘Sexting’ can be defined as sharing sexual pictures and videos of oneself online as well as by mobile phone, and can leave young people open to bullying and harassment, especially if the pictures are posted online.