The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has released the first report extensively analyzing the online experiences of LGBT young people.
The report, Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth on the Internet examined findings from more than 5,000 middle and high school students. According to the study, students identifying as LGBT were almost three times likelier than non-LGBT students to report being harassed online, and nearly twice as likely to report being bullied by text messaging.
However, the authors of the report also state that LGBT teens are roughly 2.5 times likelier than non-LGBT teens to report having at least one “close” online friend they can rely upon for peer support. LGBT teens were also found to be likelier to use online resources pertaining to sexual health information, with approximately four times as many LGBT young people searching for online information about AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections than non LGBT students. LGBT teens, researchers said, also tend to have substantially more online friends than their non-LGBT peers.
In all, researchers said that LGBT teens were slightly heavier Internet users, reporting about an hour more online activity than non-LGBT teens on a daily basis. A majority of LGBT youth, GLSEN reports, also use the Web for civic engagement, with more than three-quarters of LGBT respondents stating they have participated in a cause-oriented online community of some kind.
“Youth who are not out in person, and youth who feel less comfortable identifying as LGBT in their schools or communities, may be especially reliant on online resources,” the report concludes. “A substantial number of youth said that they only participated in civic activities online, suggesting that online spaces may serve as a safe venue for engagement for many LGBT youth.”
Illustrations from “Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual