The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

November 21, 2013

Young people say online slurs common — but not OK

WASHINGTON — Most young people say they aren’t very offended about the slurs and mean-spirited videos mocking overweight people or gays or blacks that they encounter on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“You can’t let those things get to you,” says 15-year-old Vito Calli, an immigrant from Argentina whose online friends tease him with jokes about Hispanics.

In a notable shift, however, young people are coming around to the idea that it’s wrong to contribute to this ugly side of the Internet free-for-all, a poll released Wednesday shows.

A bare majority, 52 percent, of people ages 14 to 24 now say it’s never OK to engage in discriminatory language, even when it’s just among friends who don’t really mean it. That’s up from 44 percent in 2011.

A stronger majority — nearly 6 in 10 — say using slurs is wrong, even if you say you’re “just kidding.” Only about half were so disapproving two years ago.

Meanwhile, the share of young people who come across slurs online has held steady, according to the new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV.

More than half of young users of YouTube, Facebook and gaming communities such as Xbox Live and Steam say they sometimes or often encounter biased messages.

Teens and twentysomethings say these slurs and taunting images they see online are mostly meant as jokes. The majority say they aren’t very offended when they see foul words online for women or gays — or even the N-word for African-Americans.

“Sometimes I make a couple of jokes that might be offensive to someone and I don’t even realize it,” said Calli of Reading, Pa. “You forget there’s a person behind the computer with actual feelings.”

Because a friend chastised him, the high school sophomore has tried to stop labeling anything uncool either “gay” or “retarded.” He’s finding that a difficult habit to break.

Young people say derogatory stuff is most often posted online or texted on cellphones to be funny or cool. Less than a third believe a major reason people use slurs is because they actually harbor hateful feelings toward the groups they are maligning.

Most do see hateful thoughts as at least a minor reason, however.

Some slurs are taken more seriously than others. Racial insults are not that likely to be seen as hurtful, yet a strong majority — 6 in 10 — felt comments and images targeting transgender people or Muslims are.

Almost as likely to be viewed as mean-spirited are slurs against gays, lesbians and bisexual people, and those aimed at people who are overweight.

Maria Caprigno, who has struggled with obesity since childhood, said seeing mean images on Facebook stings. But she thinks the online world reflects the rest of U.S. society.

“It’s still socially acceptable to comment on someone’s weight and what someone is eating,” said Caprigno, 18, of Norwood, Mass. “We need to change that about our culture before people realize posting stuff like that online is going to be offensive to someone.”

Erick Fernandez of West New York, N.J., says what people share online reflects the influence of song lyrics and music videos and movies. He doesn’t approve but feels resigned to it.

“I try to call some of my friends out on it, but it’s really to no avail,” said Fernandez, 22. “They brush it off and five minutes later something else will come out. Why even bother?”

In the poll, young people said they were less likely to ask someone to stop using hurtful language on a social networking site than face to face.

Alexandria Washington said she’s accustomed to seeing men who wouldn’t say offensive things to her in person post pictures of “half-naked women in sexual positions,” followed by demeaning comments and slurs like “whore” and “ratchet.”

“They’ll post anything online, but in person it’s a whole different story,” said Washington, 22, a graduate student in Tallahassee, Fla.

There seems to be a desensitizing effect. Those who report more exposure to discriminatory images and words online are less likely to say it’s wrong than those who rarely or never encounter it.

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!”

Washington, who is African-American, said on most days she doesn’t come across racial slurs on social media. But she stumbles upon bigoted words when race is in the news, such as surrounding President Barack Obama’s re-election, and finds them hurtful in that serious context.

Likewise, Calli, the high school student originally from Argentina, said he could stomach almost any name-calling but gets upset when someone uses a falsehood to denigrate immigrants.

Jeffrey Bakken, 23, a producer at a video game company in Chicago, said the bad stuff online, especially slurs posted anonymously, doesn’t define today’s young people. He says they actually are more committed to equal rights for minorities and gays than previous generations.

“Kids were horrible before the Internet existed,” Bakken said. “It’s just that now it’s more accessible to the public eye.”

The AP-NORC Center/MTV poll was conducted online Sept. 27-Oct. 7 among a random national sample of 1,297 people between the ages of 14 and 24. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. Funding for the study was provided by MTV as part of “A Thin Line” campaign to stop digital abuse.

The survey was conducted by GfK using KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online panel. Respondents are recruited randomly, using traditional telephone and mail sampling methods. People selected who had no Internet access were given it for free.

1
Text Only
World, nation, state
  • Troubled childhoods may prompt men to volunteer for military service

    In the era of the all-volunteer U.S. military, men who served are more than twice as likely as those who never did to have been sexually abused as children and to have grown up around domestic violence and substance abuse, a new study has found.

    July 24, 2014

  • As poverty continues to rise, fewer Ohioans are receiving state aid

    The number of Ohioans receiving public assistance continues to drop even while poverty increases, raising questions about how the state helps the poor.

    July 24, 2014

  • ’Saltwater’ from fracking spill much different from ocean water

    In early July, a million gallons of salty drilling waste spilled from a pipeline onto a steep hillside in western North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation. The waste — a byproduct of oil and gas production — has now reached a tributary of Lake Sakakawea, which provides drinking water to the reservation.

    July 24, 2014

  • 40 bodies from jet solemnly returned to Dutch soil

    Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

    July 23, 2014

  • U.S. pushes for truce as Gaza battle rages

    The United States announced signs of progress in cease-fire talks Wednesday, but prospects for a quick end to the fighting were dim as Palestinian families fled fierce battles in southern Gaza and the death toll rose to more than 700 Palestinians and 34 Israelis.

    July 23, 2014

  • GROUNDED U.S., other countries ban flights to and from Israel

    A Hamas rocket exploded Tuesday near Israel’s main airport, prompting a ban on all flights from the U.S. and many from Europe and Canada as aviation authorities responded to the shock of seeing a civilian jetliner shot down over Ukraine.

    July 23, 2014

  • REPORT: Retaliation by supervisors common at VA

    A pharmacy supervisor at the VA was placed on leave after complaining about errors and delays in delivering medications to patients at a hospital in Palo Alto, California. In Pennsylvania, a doctor was removed from clinical work after complaining that on-call doctors were refusing to go to a VA hospital in Wilkes-Barre.

    July 22, 2014

  • Veteran's Ducks Iraq vet cited for owning 14 therapeutic pet ducks

    An Army veteran who hurt his back during the Iraq War is worried a citation will result in him losing his 14 pet ducks, which he says are therapeutic.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stacked Apartment.jpg New York building shows how mod design stacks up as cool

    In a city piled high with ambitious architecture, a seven-floor structure off the beaten path boasts a distinction of its own: It’s billed as the first multistory, modular-built apartment building to open in the nation’s apartment capital.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scores dead in first major ground battle in Gaza

    The first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting exacted a steep price Sunday: It killed 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and forced thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their neighborhood, reportedly used to launch rockets at Israel and now devastated by the fighting.

    July 21, 2014

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
AP Video