Young Americans against using derogatory slurs online, new poll finds

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, November 22, 2013

Young Americans aren’t fans of using racial or sexist slurs online, but at least they’re not taking them to heart, according to a new pollfrom The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV.

The poll found that a majority of teens who use the Internet admit to occasionally seeing derogatory words and images targeting various people and groups. The groups of people most targeted by Americans aged 14-24 are people who are overweight and LGBT people, followed closely by African-Americans and women.

“I see things like that all the time. It doesn’t really bother me unless they’re meaning it to offend me personally,”15-year-old Vito Calli of Reading, Pa. told the AP, adding that he is occasionally teased by his friends online because of his Hispanic heritage. 

The survey also found that young adults aren’t very offended when slurs – including words like “bitch,” “fag”, or the “N-word” – are used in social media or SMS messages.

Just because the language doesn’t come across as offensive to many teenagers doesn’t mean that they believe it’s OK to use it. Nearly 6 in 10 young adults responded that using discriminatory words or images isn’t all right, a small increase from their 2011 study. What hasn’t changed is the number of young Americans who report coming across slurs and derogatory language online, as more than half of all young users on YouTube, Facebook and various gaming communities such as Xbox Live and Steam often come across biased messages.

So why do people post or text derogatory messages? Most people believe it’s to be funny or to be cool. Less than a third of those surveyed believe that people use slurs online because they actually believe in the sentiments.

“Most of the time they’re just joking around, or talking about a celebrity,” Jeff Hitchins, a white 24-year-old in Springfield, Pa., told the AP. “Hate speech is becoming so commonplace, you forget where the words are coming from, and they actually hurt people without even realizing it.”

How seriously a slur is received also depends on what kind of insult it is. Comments and images that specifically target LGBT people and Muslims are believed to be taken very seriously by a majority of Americans; racial slurs fall at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Respondents also said that they were less likely to ask someone to stop using hurtful language on a social networking site than in-person. In addition, the context in which the slur is used and how often the teens come across the derogatory language also affects their opinion of it.

The AP-NORC Center/MTV conducted an online study of 1,297 Americans between the ages of 14 and 24 from Sept. 27-Oct. 7, 2013. The study has a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percentage points. 

h/t AP

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