Inside Philanthropy

A blog on philanthropy and nonprofit news and issues. A publication of Philanthropy Journal.

September 9, 2013

Cyber bullying has devastating impact on LGBT students

                                                                                                         © Shutterstock

Special to Philanthropy Journal

James Miller
A new study from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) sheds new light on cyber bullying its consequences on our youth. And while this report is billed as the “first of its kind,” all of us who work with youth-serving nonprofits know the storyline all too well.
Facebook taunting, intimidating e-mails, graphic snap-chats – these types of bullying happen every minute of every day. This report by GLSEN helps inform yet another aspect of how pervasive bullying really is in our communities.
But let’s take a step back and ask: Why is this really a problem in the LGBT Community? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
  • •  Roughly 25 percent of LGBT students report missing school due to fear of victimization.
  • •  90 percent of LGBT youth report being harassed or assaulted over the past school year.
  • •  Stigma attached to LGBT youth put them at higher risks for anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide.
  • •  LGBT youth are 20-40 percent more likely to contemplate and attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
  • •   Individuals experiencing harassment and victimization experience poorer academic outcomes and psychological health.
From an organizational standpoint, these numbers are astounding. From a young man who went through this type of cyber bullying when coming out, I can honestly tell you it is simply heartbreaking. So much has changed over the last 15 years, but hate never fades into the background; it just finds new machinations.
But why spend all of our time looking at this issue as simply a problem? The Internet, in all its splendid glory, is a double-edged sword, which makes this GLSEN report even more compelling. When examined, the report breathes hope into this community. It reminds individuals that the Internet, especially for rural youth, offers resources and information that could never be available to them otherwise. Youth are able to express themselves anonymously in online spaces in ways that they may not be able to do in their physical space.
The LGBT Center of Raleigh has an extensive library and great programming, but we’ve also gone to great lengths to ensure that all of our outreach and educational materials are clear and easily accessible on our website. Our newsletter always includes events happening in the Triangle. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with uplifting stories, breaking LGBT news, fun facts, and other engaging resources that individuals can access from anywhere in the world. Making every resource available digitally and anonymously, we hope to reach the invisible majority of our youth.
The take-away from the GLSEN report is simple: LGBT youth have huge, unmet needs, but by being more aware of the inherent systems in place, we can empower youth and community organizations to enhance our outreach and improve our kids’ health and wellness.
Understandably, many of us can look into the not so distant past to remember a time when there was no such thing as the Internet. This simple fact does not negate its importance, but it should force the reader to remember one distinct fact: Times change, and our research and outreach must change with it.

James Miller is the executive director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, which offers programs, resources and events for youth and adults.

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