Young people are connected more than ever before and while this can be a huge benefit in linking them with friends, communities, loved ones and knowledge, it can, of course, be problematic in that they are exposed to an almost constant stream of information which they may not have the critical skills to filter and navigate.
Many young people have a clear digital identity which very often reflects the core of who they are. For example, they may not be ‘out’ as LGBTQ+ offline but are in their online life. If this is attacked, it hits very hard at a unique part of themselves that they should rightfully be proud of. To be exposed to any form of hate speech that attacks their community or identity is painful and can sadly lead to some not wanting to ‘reveal’ that part of themselves. If they witness a wider group of people they relate to being attacked, is it any wonder they can begin to feel negatively towards that characteristic?
This directly affects their self-esteem and self-worth and has very real impacts on their mental wellbeing with many reporting high rates of anxiety and depression. At Ditch the Label, we work hard to empower young people to celebrate who they are and to understand that the issue lies solely with the person directing hate at them – and they should never have to feel that they need to change who they are. If they are being targeted in an offline environment in addition to online, there can often be no escape from the abuse and this amplifies the impacts.
How should parents approach a conversation about online hate with young people?
We always recommend having open and honest conversations with young people about their online lives and experiences just as they do their lives at school or college. Ask them what platforms they are using and if they know how to report if anything happens. Have these conversations regularly rather than wait for a problem to occur and ensure they know they can come to you with any problems and you will be there to support them.
These initial conversations don’t necessarily have to be serious and heavy – they can just as easily be had in regular conversations at the dinner table or while watching TV. In fact, this approach very often removes any pressure to share with you any concerns they might have.
If they do tell you that they are worried about something, give them the time to explain and really listen. Try not to be angry if you feel they shouldn’t have gone onto a particular platform or website or they shouldn’t have shared or posted something. They are then far more likely to open up to you and share what is going on. Make yourself aware of the platforms they are using and if you are able to, spend time with them using a particular game or platform.
Any hate directed at them should be taken very seriously just as it would if it were occurring offline. Remind them that they are not at fault. It may need to be reported, not just to the platform it occurred on, but to the police in some cases as a hate crime.
What expectations should parents and young people have when it comes to reporting online hate speech they’ve been exposed to?
Most of the social media platforms have reporting processes and each has their own guidelines around hate speech and incitement to violence or abuse whether this is in the form of written words or imagery on public platforms. This procedure also considers what may be considered freedom of speech. If in doubt, always report and their moderators will investigate and additionally this helps to refine the reporting systems to encompass emerging trends and adapt accordingly.
There may be times when it may be difficult to navigate the reporting procedures or you may not be happy with the outcome. If you are unable to get harassing, abusive or hate content removed then you can contact us here. Ditch the Label are Trusted Flaggers across all the major platforms which means that we can often get content removed quickly, even if it has already been reported to no avail.
Our trained mentors can provide support on the issues that affect young people here. They can support not only in the removal of content, but in providing support in order to move forward.