To mark Safer Internet Day 2016, let’s take stock of what we’ve learned so far and what we can do with the knowledge we’ve gained about online hate and what we can do about it….
It has taken a couple of decades but, collectively, we’re definitely getting smarter about online risk and how to avoid and address it. We’re also getting smarter about how people of various ages, cultures and interests experience and create digital spaces, and four important realizations spreading across the world are that…
- The online risk that affects the most people, regardless of age, is usually boiled down into two words, “online hate” (a just-released survey by the UK’s Safer Internet Centre found that 82% of British 13-to-18-year-olds say they’ve witnessed online hate of some kind and 24% have themselves been targeted, pspychologist and international youth online risk researcher Sonia Livingstone reported in her blog post for Safer Internet Day today).
- It’s a spectrum of hateful online behavior, or “hate speech,” from what parenting educator Annie Fox calls “social garbage” to online character assassination to relentless, targeted multi-pronged attacks that include doxxing (making private information public) and other speech that threatens physical harm.
- This hate speech does not only affect youth. It affects all of us – people of all ages – including its witnesses, sometimes called bystanders (“Bystanders are significantly affected by the bullying they witness or hear about, so much so that they may be at an increased risk of self-harming behavior,” wrote Prof. Ian Rivers at Brunel University.
- Broader wisdom: There is much that all of us, including parents, can learn from what targets of online hate have learned, regardless of their age, and two standouts lessons are one gleaned from research in many countries – the vital importance of resilience to everybody’s well-being in this increasingly transparent networked world – and the fact that what we’re learning about online hate is teaching us things about the offline version.