LGBT+ History Month
LGBT+ History Month: Why is the internet important for LGBT+ youth and what parents and guardians can do to help them stay safe ?
February is LGBT+ History Month, which is an annual month-long celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender history, and related civil rights movements. To commemorate this month, Childnet is celebrating five reasons why the internet is an important space for young LGBT+ people to explore their identity and five things parents and guardians can do to help them stay safe online.
1. A space to explore identity
The internet is a place where everyone can explore content they identify with or find inspiring. For LGBT+ youth, seeing content that celebrates and respects difference can be reassuring, especially if it’s not something they experience in their offline lives.
90% of LGBT youth say they can be themselves online (Stonewall School Report 2017), and we know the internet can be an important space for LGBT+ youth to express themselves genuinely in the content they create and share. For example, trans youth or youth with other gender identities may feel more empowered to represent their true gender online.
2. A space to feel involved
Loneliness can be part of the experiences of many LGBT+ people, especially when they are younger and may feel like they have no one else around who can identify with them. how they live. In these cases, LGBT+ youth can use the internet to feel part of a supportive community. For example, they can access LGBT+ forums or groups and conversations via social networks.
3. A space for help, guidance and education
Being LGBT+ comes with unique challenges, such as accepting who you are in a society that doesn’t always accept you, or fearing discrimination and rejection.
Wellness advice and assistance, practical support and trans-specific care, to name a few, are more readily available thanks to the internet. Organizations like Young Stonewall provide much-needed support that LGBT+ people may not be able to get from people around them right now.
96% of LGBT youth say the internet has helped them better understand their sexual orientation and/or gender identity (Stonewall School Report 2017). The Internet can be an important source of educational information that may not be taught or shared in all schools.
4. A space for change
Despite advances in equality for LGBT+ people, discrimination against the community has inspired people of all ages to use the internet to voice their opinions and fight for LGBT+ causes they care about.
The internet makes it possible to share content like this with large audiences online, and in many cases can lead to positive change offline. The campaign can be an empowering and meaningful part of LGBT+ young people’s online lives, which also helps them feel included and heard.
5. A space where they are represented
Technology and the internet have also contributed to the ongoing struggle for greater representation of minority groups. For example, there are now emojis showing non-gender characters and same-sex couples and families.
Additionally, 95% of LGBT youth say the internet has helped them find positive role models (Stonewall School Report, 2017). The importance of seeing people you identify with or look like you should never be underestimated. LGBT+ youth may be more likely to find a role model online whose experiences are more like their own than in their offline communities.
What can parents and guardians do to help young LGBT+ people stay safe online ?
Last year, Childnet worked with Stonewall to publish advice for teachers and other professionals on how to help all young people, including those who identify as LGBT, stay safe in line. As part of this document, these top five tips have been written specifically for parents and guardians:
Make sure your child knows that regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, you are on their side. Let them know they can come to you in any situation, including to talk about life online. Childnet’s ‘Let’s Talk Life Online’ brochure can help.
Recognize that the online world can be an important part of your child’s life. Acknowledge the opportunities it has to offer and talk about the things they enjoy using the internet.
Be clear about your expectations
Discuss and agree on how your whole family can use the internet in a safe and positive way. Make it clear that sites and services aimed at 18+ are not appropriate, but offer online and offline alternatives where your child can make friends and feel comfortable being themselves.
The Childnet family agreement can help you.
Be open and honest
Keep talking with your child about their experiences online, and if things go wrong, make sure you’re familiar with the tools available, like blocking and reporting, to help them move forward.
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Watch out for unusual behavior. If your child avoids using the Internet or the phone, or seems concerned after going online, reach out and share your concerns.
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