Gay rights charity Stonewall has launched new guidance in partnership with O2 to help gay young people stay safe online in the wake of research showing gay youngsters are more likely to send and receive sexually explicit material.
The guide, Staying Safe Online, provides practical advice for teachers and parents to help gay and bisexual young people avoid abuse and cyberbullying.
It comes in response to statistics showing that almost a quarter of gay young people experience cyberbullying. The abuse has a devastating impact on a young person’s self-esteem and in the worst cases can impact on mental health and well-being, leading to self-harm and suicide.
The report also seeks to tackle deeply worrying levels of ‘sexting’ among gay young people. New research published by Stonewall, in association with ChildLine, reveals the shocking extent to which gay young people share sexually explicit images of themselves.
The research shows that gay and bisexual teenagers are significantly more likely to send and receive sexually explicit material than young people in general. ‘Sexting’ is classified as the sharing of self-generated sexually explicit images or videos by mobile phone or online.
59% of all gay young people who participated in the survey had created a sexual photo or video of themselves. This compares to 40% of straight young people who responded. Of the gay young people who created these images, 47% sent it to someone they knew online but had never met in real life.
Stonewall’s Acting Chief Executive Ruth Hunt said: “It’s disturbing but unsurprising to see these deeply worrying statistics. The internet can be a real lifeline for lesbian, gay and bisexual young people who feel isolated and alone.
“However, sadly, it also leaves them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. We’re delighted to work with O2 to publish Staying Safe Online which will help teachers and parents provide practical ways to keep gay young people safe online and help them find vital age-appropriate information.”
Derek McManus, chief operating officer at Telefónica O2 added: “As a leading communications company in a digital world, we think businesses need to do more to support young people. This means not only helping them make the most of their digital skills, but helping them to be safe online.”
PinkNews revealed in December that O2’s child safety internet filter had blocked access to a range of non-pornographic websites including, PinkNews, Stonewall, the Conservative Party and the Number 10 Downing Street site. The content was deemed unsuitable or uninteresting to under 12s.
The “Under 12s” parental control filtering system has been in place on O2 for a number of years, pre-dating David Cameron’s 2013 campaign on internet filters for adult content.
The charity ChildLine had also been blocked. O2 admitted that this had been a mistake, but that blocked websites were not being labelled as pornographic, instead their content was deemed as either unsuitable or irrelevant to children.
On Monday, O2 confirmed that PinkNews and Stonewall had since been placed on a list of approved sites, where the automatic under 12 restrictions do not apply.
Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told PinkNews.co.uk that he had been alarmed by revelations that internet service providers have been blocking access to non-pornographic LGBT and sexual health websites.