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The internet is both dangerous and helpful for gay and lesbian teens

The internet is both dangerous and helpful for gay and lesbian teens

According to a recent study, the Internet is both hazardous and helpful to gay and lesbian youngsters.

The report, called Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth on the Internet, found gay teens are nearly three times more likely to be bullied online when compared to straight children.

However, LGBT youth also find greater access to peer support, health education information and opportunities to be civically engaged.

‘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,’ said Dr. Eliza Byard, executive director of the  Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. ‘As social media evolve, so must our efforts to serve LGBT youth to ensure their safety, health and well-being.’

GLESN, an advocacy group dedicated to making schools safe for gay and lesbian teens, was one of the report’s sponsors.

Gay youngsters are more likely to be harassed online than straights peers, 42% to 15%. Gay teens are also twice as likely to receive bullying text messages.

Survey participants, 27%, admitted to not feeling safe when using the Internet.

‘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,’ the report said.

Despite these troubling numbers, the study pointed out ‘LGBT youth were more likely to have searched for health and medical information compared to non-LGBT youth (81% versus 46%).’

A large majority, 77%, were part of an online community that supports a cause.

‘The Internet does not serve to simply reinforce the negative dynamics found offline regarding bullying and harassment,’ said Dr. Michele Ybarra, president and research director of the Center for Innovative Public Health Research, in a statement.

‘Rather, this technology also offers LGBT youth critical tools for coping with these negative experiences, including access to understanding and accepting friends, and exposure to health information that is unavailable elsewhere,’ Ybarra continued.

The Center for Innovative Public Health Research also sponsored the analysis, which was based on national surveys of 5,680 students from middle and high school.