With their increased chance of being involved with cyberbullying – either as victim or perpetrator – LGTB teens both need and deserve additional protections from their community.
BY AMY WILLIAMS
Being a teen is difficult enough, but for those in the LGTB community – including anyone whose minority orientation isn’t covered in the acronym – the real and digital worlds can be even worse.
LGTB Teens and Social Media
As reported by Cyberbullying.us, in partnership with various institutes and organizations, 54% of LGTB teens will have been cyberbullied in the last three months.
This is bad enough, but the report uncovered something even worse – as a result of the pressure that these teens face, many of them are more likely to become bullies themselves if they see an opportunity for revenge. Cyberbullying has become the preferred method for this, with LGTB teens using it at twice the rate of heterosexual peers.
The Consequences of Cyberbullying
On average, LGTB teens who are bullied or harassed on a frequent basis will see a drop of half a grade in their assessments at school, while simultaneously being more at risk for:
- Depression, Anxiety, and stress-related medical problems
- Abuse of substances
- Skipping school
- Risky sexual activities (not inquiring about STDs, etc.)
- Suicide and thoughts of suicide
These problems are not limited to their teen years, and will often persist through their young adult life – with long-term consequences for their overall happiness and success.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide because of bullying, cyber or otherwise, tell someone right now. Help is available, because what’s happening is wrong – all you need to do is ask for it.
The Risks That LGTB Teens Face
Cyberbullying can take many forms. These are some of the most common risks that teens will face:
- Texting: If a teen mentions their sexual orientation through a text message, it’s possible that message could be copied and spread around. In fact, they don’t even have to send the message themselves – the person bullying them could just write up a nasty message and encourage sending it to every student in school.
- Sexting: With or without pictures, others may send unwanted sexts to teens, typically involving demeaning situations or crude commentary. These feel like intensely personal attacks – because that’s exactly what they are – and the feeling of not belonging is one of the major causes of the consequences identified above.
- Predators: LGTB teens are significantly more likely than their peers to be physically attacked, and some teens are cruel enough to encourage this by effectively becoming predators. Online stalking is actually unlikely – in most cases, it’s more probable that the bullies would attempt to portray themselves as friends interested in having sex, then abuse their target when they show up. Once again, this is designed to crush the target’s feeling of belonging somewhere, and this particular situation is a major driver of suicidal behavior.
Protecting The Community
With their increased chance of being involved with cyberbullying – either as victim or perpetrator – LGTB teens both need and deserve additional protections from their community. As explained byStopBullying.gov, there are several main areas of consideration:
- Safe Environments: LGTB need to feel like they are safe and accepted in their home and school environments. Schools are legally obligated to investigate reports of bullying and take specific measures to stop it from happening in the future, while parents can get involved by monitoring their teen’s online activities, identifying problem spots, and empowering their child to take control of the situation.
- Protecting Privacy: LGTB teens who announce their identity are significantly more at risk for being bullied. Most of them don’t want to keep quiet – they only do so out of fear. Depending on the situation, it may work better to get the teen involved in activities for those with non-heterosexual orientations, giving them a place they belong. Additionally, StopBullying.gov recommends that parents and communities avoid discussing LGTB issues where others can hear – identifying someone as anything other than heterosexual could make them a target, and the feeling of information being spread without their consent is what adults are supposed to prevent.
Cyberbullying is a real issue in the LGTB community, but it’s also one that we can work together to address – and the sooner we do, the sooner our children can feel safe once more.