A new study has found that LGBT youths experience online harassment three times more often than the rest of the population.
The nationwide research by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network discovered that 42% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths have experienced bullying online, compared to 15% of non-LGBT people.
They were also twice as likely to report being hassled via mobile phone message, with 27% reporting harassment, compared to 13% for non-LGBTs.
As a result of this bullying, the middle and high school pupils surveyed suffered low self-esteem, a higher chance of developing depression, and lower school grades.
However, some of the children reported that the internet provided them with greater support from their peers, access to useful health information, and more opportunities for community activism.
The study found that LGBT youth were almost twice as likely to look for medical advice online, with trans young people being the most likely.
GLSEN exec Dr. Eliza Byard said: “The Internet impacts almost all aspects of our lives, but is particularly entrenched in the lives of youth, who are the most connected people online in our society.
“LGBT youth continue to face extraordinary obstacles in their day-to-day lives whether at school or online, but the Internet can be a valuable source of information and support when they have no one or nowhere else left to turn to. As social media evolve, so must our efforts to serve LGBT youth to ensure their safety, health and well-being.”
Michelle Ybarra, the president and research director of the Center for Innovative Health Research, said that the internet “offers LGBT youth critical tools for coping with these negative experiences”, and therefore “does not serve to simply reinforce the negative dynamics found offline regarding bullying”.