Teens Increasingly Disapprove of Slur Use Online Says AP/MTV Poll
A recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV has come to the conclusion that the use of racist, sexist or anti-gay slurs online is more disapproved of my young adults than in times before.
Results from the poll which was conducted from Sept. 27- Oct. 7 by over 1,200 people ages 14-24 showed that overweight people were the most targeted group for derogatory words and images online followed by LGBT people, blacks and women.
Jeff Bakken is a 23-year old video game producer from Chicago who said the amount of slurs and derogatory content online should not surpass this generation’s commitment to equal rights.
“Kids were horrible before the Internet existed,” Bakken said in an interview to The AP. “It’s just that now it’s more accessible to the public eye.”
Although many of the slurs young adults say they see online can be regarded as ‘just kidding,’ nearly 6 out of 10 said they disapprove of the use of derogatory words and images. Results from a similar poll in 2011 conducted that only half of young people were disapproving.
Maria Caprigno an 18-year-old from Norwood, Mass. says she has struggled with obesity her whole life and she feels the hurtful things she sees online reflect the views of society.
“It’s still socially acceptable to comment on someone’s weight and what someone is eating,” Caprigno told AP. “We need to change that about our culture before people realize posting stuff like that online is going to be offensive to someone.”
More than half of young users of social media said they come across insulting content while online. The poll showed that less than a third of people said the use of slurs comes from actual malice but that it instead stems from people wanting to appear funny or cool.
Vito Calli is a 15-year-old from Reading, Pa. who says seeing slurs online is common and it doesn’t really offend him.
“I see things like that all the time,” Calli told AP. “It doesn’t really bother me unless they’re meaning it to offend me personally.”
Calli said even when people tease him about being Hispanic he does not take is personally or let it bother him.
The results illustrate that some slurs are viewed as more offensive and mean natured that others. Racial insults are not viewed as hurtful as those against Muslims or those that are overweight or part of the LGBT community.
“‘That’s so gay’ remains a common phrase on the Internet and in text message, with just over half (52 percent) of young people reporting that they encounter the phrase, down 20 percent from 2011 (65 percent),” a press release from AP-NORC stated.
Jeff Hitchins is a 24-year-old from Springfield, Pa. who said most of the insults he encounters he regards as joking around.
“Hate speech is becoming so commonplace, you forget where the words are coming from, and they actually hurt people without even realizing it,” Hitchins said to AP.
The poll displayed that people were less likely to comment on or ask someone to stop using derogatory language online than face-to-face.
Erick Fernandez of West New York, N.J who is now 22 but said as a teenager he attended a diversity summer camp that shed light on hurtful language that he wasn’t aware of before. Fernandez said what people say online express the thoughts portrayed through music and movies.
“I try to call some of my friends out on it but it’s really to no avail,” Fernandez said in his interview with AP. “They brush it off and five minutes later something else will come out. Why even bother?”
Alexandria Washington is a 22-year-old graduate student in Tallahassee, Fla. who says she’s more likely to see men post offensive pictures of women with tags like “whore” or “ratchet” attached than hearing them say offensive things in person.
“They’ll post anything online, but in person it’s a whole different story,” said Washington according to AP.
Calli who is originally from Argentina and Washington who is African-American said they are more offended by their encounters of race in the news than on social media.
Washington said she is hurt by the prejudice nature of some news stories like those surrounding President Obama’s re-election. Calli said he feels the same way when the media maligns immigrants.
“Context is crucial, too. Demeaned groups sometimes reclaim slurs as a way of stripping the words of their power – like the feminist ‘Bitch’ magazine or gay rights activists chanting ‘We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!’” the AP article states.
Funding for the poll was provided by MTV as part of their “A THIN LINE” campaign to stop digital abuse.
“The line between what’s okay and what’s not gets blurrier every day,” the A THIN LINE site states. “Get the facts about boundary-defying activities like sexting, constant messaging, spying and digital disrespect – so you’ll know where the line is, and be ready to draw your own.”
The campaign has worked to empower over 1.5 million young people to take action against digital abuse.
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