Girls perceive online hate speech more strongly than boys

Over half of girls regularly encounter hate speech online Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

While a third of boys consider hateful comments on the internet interesting or entertaining, only 10% of girls find such comments interesting and 14% entertaining.

This content was published on August 23, 2021 - 17:33

These are the findings of the latest JAMESfocus reportExternal link by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and Swisscom, which surveyed 1,000 young people aged 12-19 throughout Switzerland.

According to the report, three-quarters of the girls said they were horrified or saddened by hate speech, whereas only 40% of boys were. What’s more, almost half of the male participants expressed understanding for some hate comments.

“On the one hand, it could be that boys are oriented towards the role of the strong, dominant man who has to be able to take a punch sometimes and who can’t be harmed by such comments but who is even amused by them,” said ZHAW media psychologist Céline Külling in a statement on Monday.

“On the other hand, studies show that men are more likely to be among the perpetrators of hate speech, which could also increase understanding of such comments.”

Discrimination based on appearance

The study found that over half (53%) of girls regularly encounter hate speech, compared with 41% of boys, with 16- to 19-year-olds being particularly affected.

“However, it is difficult to assess whether girls actually face such messages more often or whether there are different perceptions of what is perceived as hate speech in the first place,” Külling said.

Young people are most often insulted on the internet because of their appearance, which was reported mainly by girls (81%). However, the respondents also observed discrimination based on sexual orientation, place of origin and skin colour. Almost all of the respondents (94%) said they found anonymous hate comments cowardly.

If young people encounter hate speech that does not apply to them personally, they should offer support to those affected, the authors recommended. In addition, objecting to and countering such comments is important to set an example, they added.

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