A new study from the Born This Way Foundation, an organization that supports and em
powers youth, has detailed the realities of cyberbullying among LGBT youth in the hopes of establishing more effective means of dealing with both online and offline harassment.
“We did a study examining cyberbullying and traditional bullying among diverse youth,” lead researcher Sue Swearer said. “We were interested in looking at experiences of youth and young people across the world and with different gender identities and sexualities.”
The study, released in 2017, included data from the Born Brave Experience Survey, administered by the foundation, of more than 8,500 young people between the ages of 13-25. The survey examined factors such as the relationship between traditional bullying and cyberbullying, particularly for LGBT youth.
“Technology has undoubtedly connected lives worldwide,” the study reads. “However, as with any social connection, the increasing availability and use of technology has also placed youth at-risk for unique and multiple forms of victimization.”
The study found that 77 percent of respondents who reported being bullied online also reported traditional forms of bullying offline. Transgender individuals are particularly at risk — 52 percent of transgender respondents reported being cyberbullied compared to 22 percent of cisgender respondents and 28 percent of genderqueer respondents.
The study also found that 28 percent of participants who identified as bisexual reported being cyberbullied versus 18 percent of heterosexual participants and 21 percent of gay and lesbian respondents.
“Sexual minority participants … reported victimization through significantly more electronic sources,” the study reads. “Specifically, gay and lesbian, bisexual, pansexual and queer participants reported higher numbers of victimization modalities when compared to heterosexual participants.”
The purpose of this study was not only to recognize patterns of cyberbullying and traditional bullying of LGBT youth, but also to develop strategies for parents and school administrators to effectively address and eradicate the harassment.
“Any effort to support the wellness and empowerment of young people has to start with understanding the challenges they face and the conditions they need to thrive,” Cynthia Germanotta, co-Founder and president of the Born This Way Foundation, said.
“These findings from the survey are a reminder that every young person is unique and needs resources and support that meet their particular needs,” Germanotta continued. “This will only become more important as the digital landscape continues to evolve, playing an even greater role in the lives of young people.”
Swearer believes that telling kids to “put the phone down” in order to escape cyberbullying is unrealistic in today’s society — technology and social media have become a primary means of communication, and cutting young people off from that would dramatically limit their social opportunity.
Instead, Swearer sees this research as an opportunity to educate professionals on how to effectively advise youth subjected to both online and offline bullying.
“For adults to be credible with kids, they need to work through strategies — who to talk to, how to inoculate yourself in these experiences, this research is unpacking experiences instead of making a broad statement,” Swearer said. “We are better able to give advice to mental health professionals on how to go about this.”
These findings can give professionals information on where bullying vulnerabilities, such as online versus offline vulnerability, of different subsets of children lie — LGBT youth not only have different rates of bullying but different harassment experiences altogether and require a different approach than their heterosexual and cisgender peers.
In alignment with the Born This Way Foundation’s mission statement, the study hopes to “make the world a kinder and braver place” by further understanding the forms that bullying takes and how victims are affected differently, leading to more comprehensive strategies and solutions against bullying.
“The simplest thing that we can ask for is to start everyday being kind to somebody, and thinking about others instead of themselves,” Germanotta said. “We often don’t think of the impacts our actions have on other people and they can be very hurtful. It is so simple to change that.”