LGBTQ+ youth at greater risk of ‘unwanted attention’ online than straight kids

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LGBTQ+ youth are reportedly three times more likely to experience harm or harassment online than straight kids, a new report has found.

Research published by US-based child abuse prevention nonprofit Thorn – co-founded by actors Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher – found that under-18s who identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella are at an elevated risk of encountering “unwanted attention” on the internet.

The study also found that LGBTQ+ teenagers are more reliant on online communities as a way to express themselves and their identities. However, this comes with an increased risk of harassment, endangerment and receiving unsolicited nudes.

Shockingly, the new research found that at least 83 per cent of young adults view encounters of attempted befriending and manipulation by adults as common in online spaces.

The frequency of such encounters with strangers online is even more common for LGBTQ+ teenagers, with 91 per cent saying they had had such experiences.

Resources to help protect under-18s from harm seem to be accessed less by LGBTQ+ minors, with the study finding that nearly half of those surveyed had tried to handle feeling unsafe on their own.

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‘LGBTQ+ minors face unique and increased risks online’

One in six of those who confirmed they don’t seek help for unwanted encounters said that being outed was a concern in reporting cases, while one in five said being cut off from their online community plays an even bigger role.

“The research confirms what we already knew to be true,” Thorn wrote in a statement. “LGBTQ+ minors face unique and increased risks online – including exposure to self-generated child sexual abuse material.”

The nonprofit elaborated that, while the research plays a vital role in creating an understanding of how exactly LGBTQ+ under-18s are harassed online, the solutions require parents to better support their children’s identities.

Thorn stated that parents and guardians need to create an environment to “speak openly and often with their children about online harms”, while noting that encouragement to discuss how being queer affects them is part of that.

“At the same time, young people and their peers play an active role in recognising and navigating potentially risky online interactions when they or their friends experience them,” the statement from Thorn continued.

The group said it aims to continue monitoring trends in youth attitudes towards online safety in the hope the data can be used to “inform and deliver” interventions to help safeguard under-18s.

Thorn is also set to host a discussion about the research during an Instagram Live stream on 27 June.