Nearly all LGBT young people (96%) say the internet has helped them understand more about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Nine in ten LGBT young people said they can be themselves online. But being LGBT online can also present some specific risks. Two in five (39 %) LGBT young people aged 13-19 have met up with someone they met and talked to online (All statistics are from Stonewall's School Report).
Your child may have told you they’re lesbian, gay, bi, trans, or queer. Or maybe they haven’t ‘come out’ yet but you know and want to support them. Talking with your child about sex, relationships and the internet can feel daunting, but is the best thing you can do to help support them online – much like you do offline.
To help your child make the most of what the internet can offer LGBTQ+ young people, it’s important to have ongoing and non-judgemental conversations with them. This will help them feel comfortable speaking to you if anything online worries them.
Here are some things to think about:
- Ask about the websites and apps that they use.
Talk about what they and their and friends have experienced on specific websites or apps – these can be both positive and negative. Discuss if they know how to block and report anyone who upsets them online. If they don’t, why not find out together.
To get you started, the NSPCC's online safety hub has further information and resources for parents and carers.
- Make them aware of safe sources of support.
It’s important that young people seek support and advice from trusted sources and like you, have their best interests at heart.
Childline have message boards for young people to speak to each other about gender identity and sexuality.
Other trusted Organisations like Childline, Young Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence or LGBT Youth Scotland are also great places for young people to get advice and support.
- Talk about online relationships
It’s important to speak to your child openly and honestly about the type of people they might meet online. Some people online will genuinely want to be friends, however others may put pressure on them or manipulate them into doing something they don’t want to do.
Therefore it is necessary to help your child to identify when someone might not be a good friend by talking about healthy and unhealthy relationships – on and offline.
Remind your child that online, you can never really be sure of who you’re talking to, even if the forum or group is moderated. Some people ‘catfish’ others by pretending to be someone they’re not when forming romantic relationships online. Our Digital Romance research found that significantly more gay young people (9.9%) had met up with an online contact who was not who they said they were, compared to straight young people (4.9%).
Explain to your child that meeting up with people from the internet is always risky and if they ever did decide to do this, they should only ever meet in a public place and take a trusted adult with them (this should never be a friend, as they would be putting another young person at risk too!). They might not want to do this, but tell them that they adult (this could be you or a family friend) is not there to check up on them, just to make sure the person is who they say they are and keep them safe.
Our Exploring your identity online? article for teens has more information about how they can explore online relationships safely.
- Explain that no one should ever make them feel uncomfortable.
Tell your child that it is never okay for online friends to make them feel uncomfortable, or put pressure on them to reveal certain information or share sexual pictures of themselves. Explain there are places that they can go to for help – such as speaking to someone at Childline, or if it's an adult who's putting pressure on them, thy can report it to CEOP. Make sure they know they won’t be blamed for anything that’s happened.
Teens can read more about what to do if someone asks them for a nude in our Sending nudes article.