Cyberbullying is becoming a bigger and bigger phenomenon and issue yet it is so relatively new that we are still grappling with ways to effectively combat it. Fittingly, more and more, anti-bullying organizations are focusing on social media as a means to combat such bullying. Furthermore, more and more companies and organizations are hosting events and conferences to allow LGBT students an opportunity to make connections as openly gay individuals. For example, Facebook recently held its second annual “Out for Undergraduate Technology Conference” at it’s Menlo Park, CA headquarters which worked to connect high-achieving LGBT students. As event organizer Michael Ruderman put it, the conference is “mostly about helping the next generation of LGBT employees realize they don’t have to hide their sexual orientation to get ahead.”
The need for this is starkly clear. According to GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) “2011 National School Climate Survey of LGBT students” 81% of LGBT students experienced verbal or physical harassment at school due to their sexual orientation and further 63.5% felt unsafe at school. Almost 30% of LGBT students missed at least one day in school in the past month due to concerns about their safety. Less than 50% reported having a gay-straight alliance at their school so institutional and peer support seems to be a problem as well.
However, social media is providing an opportunity to reverse some of these trends. Dan Savage’s wildly successful It Gets Better project producing user-created videos telling LGBT youth that it does, in fact, get better as you get older, has resulted in over 50,000 user-created videos many from prominent personalities in politics, sports and entertainment (including President Obama and Hillary Clinton as well as the staffs of Facebook, Pixar and Google among many others). Those videos have cumulatively been viewed over 50 million times.
Other programs such as the BETTERLegal Program which advocates for LGBT youth by providing legal service organizations with compelling video content that can help in court and the community and organizations like GLSEN ensure that social media tools are being effectively utilized in support of bullied youth give us hope that it will get better!
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