During this Pride month, we think that learning more about LGBTQ+ experiences online is crucial to fostering understanding, empathy, and inclusivity. Whilst it is important to note not all LGBTQ+ youth have negative experiences online; it cannot be ignored that they are a vulnerable group who need to be safeguarded.
New research from Thorn, a company that builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse, has found that LGBTQ+ youth are 3 times more likely to experience unwanted and risky online interactions.
The new Thorn report showed that LGBTQ+ teens are:
more than twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ teens to have reported receiving a request for nudes from someone they don’t know online.
twice as likely to have reported getting blackmailed or receiving threats.
3 times more likely to have had an adult attempt to befriend and manipulate them online.
Why is this?
LGBTQ youth often experience social isolation, as they may face discrimination, bullying, or rejection from their peers and families. Consequently, they may seek solace and a sense of belonging in online communities. Unfortunately, this can expose them to potential abusers who exploit their vulnerability and offer false promises of acceptance.
Reliance on online communities:
For many young LGBTQ+ people, the internet serves as a preferred medium for exploration and self-expression. Online communities create an environment where individuals can freely explore their identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation without fear of judgment or rejection. This freedom allows them to delve deeper into their true selves, share their stories, and seek support from peers who understand their unique journeys.
However, this means they have the tendency to create strong relationships with people online who they do not know in real life.
Coercion and Blackmail:
Coercion and blackmail are alarming tactics used by abusers to exploit the vulnerabilities of young LGBTQ+ individuals.
Research conducted by The Trevor Project, a leading organization providing support to LGBTQ+ youth, reveals that these forms of exploitation are unfortunately prevalent. According to their 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 12% of LGBTQ+ youth reported being threatened with the outing of their sexual orientation or gender identity if they did not comply with someone's demands.
This statistic underscores the significance of understanding and addressing the risks faced by LGBTQ+ youth online, emphasizing the importance of creating a safe and supportive digital environment for their well-being.
If you are concerned for a young person or want to know the places that LGBTQ+ youth can go to for help, please see our list:
LGBT Youth Scotland (www.lgbtyouth.org.uk): A Scottish organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ+ youth. They offer resources, support groups, and information on various topics, including mental health, coming out, and relationships.
Stonewall (www.youngstonewall.org.uk): Stonewall is a prominent LGBTQ+ rights organization in the UK. Their youth-focused website provides information, resources, and support for LGBTQ+ young people.
Mermaids (www.mermaidsuk.org.uk): Mermaids is a charity supporting gender-diverse and transgender youth and their families. They offer helpline services, online forums, and resources to help navigate gender identity-related issues.
Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline (www.switchboard.lgbt): Switchboard is a helpline that provides support and information for the LGBTQ+ community in the UK. They offer a confidential phone service, email support, and a webchat facility.
LGBT Foundation (lgbt.foundation): The LGBT Foundation offers a range of services and resources for LGBTQ+ individuals in the UK, including youth-specific support. They provide advice, information, and access to support groups.
Youth Access (www.youthaccess.org.uk): Youth Access is an organization that supports young people's access to counselling and advice services. They provide a directory of youth-friendly services, including LGBTQ+-inclusive support.
Albert Kennedy Trust (www.akt.org.uk): The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBTQ+ young people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness. They offer housing support, mentoring, and advice services.
Gendered Intelligence (www.genderedintelligence.co.uk): Gendered Intelligence provides support and resources for transgender and gender-diverse young people. They offer youth groups, workshops, and guidance for young trans individuals and their families.
Allsorts Youth Project (www.allsortsyouth.org.uk): Allsorts is a charity based in Brighton that supports and empowers LGBTQ+ young people. They provide drop-in sessions, youth groups, and one-to-one support.
MindOut (www.mindout.org.uk): MindOut is a mental health service for LGBTQ+ people in the UK. They offer online and in-person support, counselling, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ individuals, including young people.