Young LGBTQ+ people more than twice as likely to experience hate speech online

Digital Youth Index study finds minority groups also more likely to feel being online has had negative impact

Young LGBTQ+ people are more than twice as likely to experience hate speech online compared with those who identify as heterosexual, according to a new report on how young people use the internet.

The annual Digital Youth Index study found that minority groups were also more likely to feel being online had a negative impact on them, with both LGBTQ+ people and those with a mental health condition reporting higher-than-average unease with their online lives.

Put together by Nominet, the UK company that oversees the .uk domain names, the report finds that more than two-thirds of young people, defined as those aged between eight and 25, had seen distressing content online, most commonly on social networks including Reddit, Twitter, TikTok and Tumblr.

“It’s never been more important for young people to feel connected, included and secure when they’re online,” Paul Fletcher, Nominet’s chief executive, said of the research.

“Completing this research over a number of years allows us to compare young people’s digital skills, their use of online services and their mental health and overall wellbeing over time. Society depends on young people learning to thrive in our increasingly digital world.

“Growing the diversity of the UK’s digital talent pool and increasing digital skills for all young people is vital not just for improving social mobility and the economy, but for building the kind of society we need, today and tomorrow.”

Three in 10 of those surveyed also said that their sleep had been negatively impacted by the internet and digital devices, with more than a quarter saying they would like to spend less time on their devices.

But the view that being online had had a positive impact on relationships with friends was held by a bare majority, of 53%.

The research paints a mixed picture of the state of the internet for children and young people, and suggests that the image of gen Z as carefree “internet natives” obscures a more complex reality.

It comes as the UK government is considering reintroducing the Online Safety Bill, a mammoth piece of legislation that will endow Ofcom with a raft of new powers as a regulator of online content.

The bill has caused controversy thanks to its inclusion of new requirements on platforms to control so-called “legal but harmful” content, such as that promoting suicide or self-harm, as well introducing new offences including “harmful communications”, “false communications” and “threatening communications”.


Alex Hern

The GuardianTramp

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