Prevalence of Cyber-Bullying Among LGBT Youth
School-based bullying has been a persistent problem for LGBT youth which has been associated with psychological harm such as depression and suicidality. Data from the Human Rights Watch study, indicate that LGBT youth are almost 3 times more likely to have been assaulted or involved in a physical fight at school, 3 times more likely to have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school, and are approximately 4 times more likely to skip school due to unsafe feelings compared to their heterosexual peers. However, with the increase in technological advancements that have made communication easier and more efficient; cyber-bullying has developed into a cause for great concern among school officials, parents, and policy makers. Cyber-bullying can allow perpetrators to remain anonymous, post messages to a wide audience, and experience reduced responsibility and accountability compared to face-to-face bullying. Since this is a relatively new form of bullying there has not been a substantial amount of research into cyber-bullying among LGBT youth and how it differs from school-based bullying.
A recent study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, analyzed the differences in prevalence rates of bullying between non-heterosexual and heterosexual youth in grades 9 thru 12 in the Boston metropolitan area (n=20,406). Non-heterosexual was defined as youth reporting their sexual orientation as gay, lesbian, bisexual, other, or not sure which comprised approximately 6% of the total sample (n=1,261). Any form of bullying, teasing, or threats via phone, the internet, or other electronic communication was defined as cyber-bullying for purposes of this study.
Research findings indicate that non-heterosexual youth were far more likely than heterosexual youth to report cyber-bullying (33.1% vs. 14.5%) and school bullying (42.3% vs. 24.8%). In addition, 22.7% of non-heterosexual youth reported both cyber and school-based bullying compared to only 8.5% of their heterosexual peers. Also, 52.7% of non-heterosexual youth reported either cyber or school-based bullying compared to 30.9% of heterosexual youth.
Results also show that youth, regardless of sexual orientation, who experienced only cyber-bullying were at higher risk of depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, self-injury, and suicide attempt compared to those who had only experienced school-based bullying. Separate finding also show that non-heterosexual youth are at a significantly higher risk for these outcomes compared to their heterosexual peers.
These finding indicate the need for school administrators, policy makers, and parents to continue to place emphasis on prevention efforts to curtail cyber-bullying since it is such a critical problem facing LGBT youth which has been linked to several negative health outcomes as well as poorer school performance.
Schneider, S.K., O’Donnel, L., Stueve, A. & Coulter, R. (2012). Cyberbullying, school bullying, and psychological distress: A regional census of high school students. American Journal of Public Health, 102 (1), 171-177.
Human Rights Watch. (2001). Hatred in the hallways: Violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students in the U.S. New York: Author.