Young people across the UK are joining Government ministers, celebrities, industry figures, schools and police forces to play their part in creating a kinder online community today, Safer Internet Day 2016. The day of positive action comes as a new study commissioned by official organisers of the day, the UK Safer Internet Centre, reveals that more than four in five (82%) young people have seen or heard online hate targeted at a certain group in the past year, showing that more needs to be done to help create a kind and inclusive internet.
Celebrated globally in over 100 countries, Safer Internet Day is an opportunity for everyone to play their part for a better internet. This year is set to be the biggest campaign yet with over a thousand organisations across the UK uniting in their support for the day. High profile supporters include the BBC, BT, Disney, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Microsoft, Nickelodeon, NSPCC, Premier League Football Clubs, the Post Office, Twitter, Vodafone, and the UK Government, as well as police services and schools across the UK, who are all coming together to deliver a range of inspiring activities to encourage the safe and positive use of technology. They’ll be joining hundreds of individuals supporting the #SID2016 social media campaign to ‘play your part and #shareaheart’, which is set to reach over 4 million in a mass tweet at 8am today.
This nationwide day of action comes as new research reveals young people’s experiences online – both positive and negative. In particular the study explores young people’s exposure and attitudes to the topic of online hate targeted at people or communities because of their gender, transgender identity, sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnicity, nationality or religion*.
Overwhelmingly young people want the internet to be a positive and inclusive place that respects people’s differences and they see their peers helping to create this. The online study of 13-18-year-olds conducted by ResearchBods found that 94% said they believe no one should be targeted with online hate, while 93% have seen their friends posting things online that are supportive, kind or positive about a certain group in the last year.
But despite that positive experience, the majority of young people have seen something hateful on the internet in the last year. More than four in five (82%) said they witnessed online hate, having seen or heard offensive, mean or threatening behaviour targeted at or about someone based on their race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation or transgender identity. More worryingly, almost a quarter (24%) reported to have been the target of online hate themselves in the last year for belonging to a certain group. As a result, some young people are self-censoring with nearly three quarters (74%) saying that online hate makes them more careful about what they share online.
The study reveals that more needs to be done to empower young people to take action over online hate. While 84% of young people had seen people responding to defend a certain group that is being targeted online, the most common strategy among those who had witnessed online hate was to ignore it (53%).
While more than two thirds (68%) of those who had witnessed online hate in the last year say they know how to report it to a social network, in practice just a fifth (20%) actually reported it to the social network, app, game or website where they saw it.
Young people are up for the challenge though: Over 2.1m young people have played their part to show their support for targeted groups in the last year, while almost three-quarters (72%) believe people their age can use the internet to bring different people closer together.