Helping LGBTQ+ Young People Navigate the Digital World Safely
By Kim Allman, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Public Policy
Young people in the LGBTQ+ community face significant threats online. Research shows that almost twice as many LGBTQ+ students reported being cyberbullied compared to heterosexual students, which can have negative consequences such as emotional distress, mental health issues, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.
At the same time, the internet can also be a positive environment for LGBTQ+ young people. It can give them the privacy to explore questions about sexual health and coming out, and introduce them to safe, supportive communities of peers and allies.
That’s why Gen has partnered with The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people, to create the Guide to Online Safety for LGBTQ+ Young People. This free digital resource helps queer youth navigate the digital world. A few sample tips from the resource include:
- Block Negativity: Familiarize yourself with different forms of harassment like cyberbullying, hate speech and doxing. Report and block harassers when necessary. When you block someone on Instagram, they’re never notified, and they can no longer view your posts or search for your account. (And you can unblock them at any time.)
- Customize Your Experience: We all have different life experiences and challenges, and LGBTQ+ young people are known to experience depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse or suicidal thoughts at higher rates. Most social media platforms will let you restrict certain content and customize your pages in ways that make you happy.
- Be Picky About Sharing: If you’re excited to share something but only want a select group of followers to see, adjust your privacy settings to narrow your audience. Many photos contain EXIF data (data that is built into a picture) that includes your location data. Disable this in your device before uploading to a social media platform.
- Seek Supportive Communities: Join LGBTQ+-focused online communities like TrevorSpace, providing safe spaces for discussion and support. Feeling safe and understood in at least one online space is associated with lower suicide risk and lower rates of recent anxiety for all LGBTQ+ young people.
Launching this resource in October was intentional, as it’s both LGBTQ+ History Month and Cybersecurity Awareness Month. LGBTQ+ History Month provides the opportunity to not only lift up the achievements and contributions of LGBTQ+ people, but to raise awareness of ongoing discrimination and struggles, including suicide and cyberbullying among young people. LGBTQ+ young people need safe, accepting and supportive environments – at home, at school, in their communities and in the digital world. And we are proud to play a role in providing resources that help them navigate the internet more safely.
This initiative with The Trevor Project is one of the many ways Gen provides year-round support to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Our partnership with The Trevor Project includes financial support for TrevorSpace, an affirming online community for more than 400,000 LGBTQ+ young people. We also work regularly with Out & Equal to make our workplaces as inclusive as possible.
We would love your help in distributing this important guide. Please feel free to share our Guide to Online Safety for LGBTQ+ Young People resource with people you know and your networks.