Young people are connecting and exchanging via social networks more than ever, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when face-to-face communication is limited. The number of users exchanging information and communicating via communication technologies is directly proportional to the risk of hate speech on the Internet.
Since we can’t and won’t control what others say, you need to be proactive in preparing your child with important skills to filter and navigate the harmful content he or she is exposed to.
The article will help you better understand what is online hate speech, why people say toxic things and tips for effective conversation regarding this issue.
What is online hate speech?
Hate speech is understood as any form of verbal, written or offensive communication or use of disparaging or discriminatory language regarding a person or group based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc.
Online hate speech is the behavior described above but is expressed in communication technologies such as social networks, forums, game websites, etc.
Why is online hate speech especially happening on such platforms? Every minute, millions of posts are created and shared on social networks. The scope and scale of online content are so great that moderators cannot manually filter every content according to the platform’s terms of service.
Artificial intelligence-based systems are still new and lack the understanding of context to determine what is hate speech and what is political criticism, or what is an acceptable or unacceptable opinion. Even in the most detailed terms, both human censors and artificial intelligence-based systems can be confused and misinterpreted.
Is hate speech on the Internet the same as cyberbullying?
Online hate speech and cyberbullying are often misunderstood.
Bullying is when someone has deliberately repeated behaviors of using words or actions to hurt other’s feelings, making them feel bad, embarrassed which, in the long term, can lead to anxiety, depression, self-harm or even suicide.
Cyberbullying is another form of bullying, using technology like the internet, emails, social media, smartphones, online game communities, etc. to harm people.
Often, but not always, cyberbullying can involve humiliating others based on characteristics such as their race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or body image. In some cases, depending on the motive and content of the aggression, cyberbullying can also be defined as hate speech.
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Why do people make online hate speech?
People make hate speech online for many reasons.
- Reflects one’s true political beliefs, ethnicity, or distaste for a group of people.
- As a “product” of people from an environment where profanity is common.
- Lack of knowledge: This often appears in times of “trolling” or intentionally provoking others. This is often seen on the Internet, where so-called “trolls” engage in this behavior as a pastime. They sometimes utter a vulgar statement without even realizing it is obscene and can be offensive and hurtful.
Tips for an effective conversation about online hate speech with your child
Gentle and open
Talking is always one of the most effective prevention if used effectively. You should have open and honest conversations with your child about their life and online experiences as you care about their life at school.
Don’t make it serious. These initial conversations don’t have to be serious and pressured, instead, make this issue is as easy to expressed and exchanged as regular conversations at the dinner table or while watching TV.
Once you have removed the barriers and pressure, it will be easier for your child to share with you any concerns he may have.
You can start by asking some questions like:
- What social network are you using?
- Why did you choose that social network?
- Do your friends use it or not?
- Do you see anything on social media that worries or upsets you?
Be proactive and talk often instead of just starting to speak when problems arise, and make sure your child knows that he or she can come to you with any problem. If possible, experiment with the platforms your child is using.
Stay calm if your kid is a victim of online hate speech
If your child is really having a problem, and you sense it, instead of rushing and constantly asking questions, you should calm down and give him time to explain.
Anger, impatience, and judgment are common feelings for all parents, however, if you don’t hold back, there would be less likely that your child will open up and share what’s going on with you.
Besides, any hate directed at children needs to be taken as seriously as it happens in real life.
What should children do if they come across online hate speech?
With the growth of media, there is a high chance that children (even your children) encounter hate speech online. Sadly there is no cure for online hate speech because simply, we can not control what others intend to say, but there is always a way to combat it. Therefore, parents need to make sure they tell their kids to be cautious and aware of what they should do if they come across hate speech online. Here are a few ways:
- If your child is directly affected: it is important for your child to tell you what he or she is feeling so that you can help him deal with these feelings.
- If your child is not directly affected: If they see hate speech online, it’s important that they tell someone they trust, such as a parent or teacher. Children need to understand that what is said is hateful and wrong and goes against the majority of society’s values.
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