Young People Think Online Slurs Are 'Joking' as Long as They Are Directed at Others

By Tracey E. Schelmetic September 20, 2011

Today's “slap your head” news comes courtesy of a poll conducted by the Associated Press and MTV that found that a majority of young people believe that using slurs online is just a matter of “lighthearted joking,” apparently...as long as the slurs are directed against someone else.

The AP reports that 71 percent of teens and young adults in their 20s say people are more likely to use slurs online or in text messages than in person, and only about half reported that they would ask someone engaging in such name-calling online to stop. Fifty-five percent of young people affirmed that they have observed people engaging in such behavior on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. And 51 percent report encountering discriminatory words or images on those sites.

“On Twitter, everybody's getting hit hard. Nobody really cares about nobody's feelings,” said Kervin Browner II, 20, a junior at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. “You never know how bad it hurts people because they don't say anything.”

But when asked why people engage in name calling that includes using racist, sexist and homophobic slurs, more than half – 57 percent – believe it's because “people are trying to be funny.” Only half as many believe it's because “people really hold those views.”

The differences arise when you measure the groups split demographically. While overall, only 44 percent of young people said they'd be very or extremely offended if they saw someone using a racial slur online, 60 percent of African-American young people said the same. While only 41 percent of women find pejorative sexual term offensive in a general way, 65 percent of young women identify it as offensive when used against them personally. (Only 28 percent of men found the same term offensive.) While only 23 percent of young people overall found a homophobic term offensive, the figure jumps to 39 percent among teens and young people who are gay or close to someone who is gay.

The message, therefore, seems to be “it's funny as long as you don't say it about me.”


Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

TechZone360 Contributor

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