19 August 2022

Case study: Chloe, 18, is seeking to safeguard herself from harmful material online

Having access to the latest technology and skills are not enough to mitigate online harms.

19 August 2022

Case study: Chloe, 18, is seeking to safeguard herself from harmful material online

Originally published in the Digital Youth Index 2021 report, you can access the full report here.

We know from The Nominet Digital Youth Index in 2021 that 58% of young people in the LGBTQ+ community have experienced hate speech online, compared to 37% of young people overall. Young LGBTQ+ people are also more likely to see content promoting self-harm or suicide (39% vs 24% heterosexual people) and see content which promotes dangerous eating habits (39% vs 24%). While fictitious, we are highlighting Chloe’s case study to emphasise the ways young people who are facing the most risks online may require tailored strategies for support. 

Chloe is 18 and in her first year at a campus university in the East of England. She has settled in well, is enjoying her course, and is excited about the new independence away from her parents. She has a brand-new laptop and smartphone for her new chapter at university and has access to high-speed Wi-Fi across the campus. Being part of the LGBTQ+ community, Chloe belongs to a lot of online groups that celebrate and discuss issues related to gender and sexuality. Anyone who meets Chloe may think she seems happy and carefree, however, inside, she is struggling to connect with new people that have similar interests.  

Despite Chloe’s ability to connect with people in-person who are just a few feet away, she is beginning to feel increasingly isolated, missing real-world interaction from her friends back home. Chloe prefers to go online for her main emotional connections, to contact her old friends and to connect with new people that have similar interests to her. She is not alone in feeling this way – the internet is an important way in which young people choose to connect with their friends, with 55% messaging friends and family via online methods, along with 49% playing online games, and 48% browsing posts, videos, and images from others. 

Unlike many others, Chloe has the most up-to-date devices and feels like she takes the necessary precautions by using the right tools and settings to keep herself safe from harmful material online. Despite this, she is still finding herself exposed to upsetting content on social media. She has experienced significant online abuse from others, either directly or to people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and she is increasingly receiving unwarranted sexual messages and requests for sexual images from people she doesn’t know via TikTok, SnapChat, and Instagram. This is seriously taking a toll on Chloe’s mental wellbeing. In Chloe’s age group, 32% of 17–19-year-olds feel a similar way that the internet has a negative impact on their mental health. 

Chloe feels comfortable enough to talk about these issues to her best friends, but she hides them from her parents. There are many people who feel the same as Chloe that more needs to be done to support young people to receive the right emotional and pastoral support to face these challenges, and in a way that they feel comfortable to do so. There is also the need for stronger inbuilt safeguards on the platforms young people are using to, in Chloe’s case, reduce the number of unsolicited messages she is receiving. There should be a way for this to be implemented without Chloe having to adjust all the settings herself, some of which she may not even fully understand what she is opting in/out of. 

Stories such as Chloe’s highlight that when it comes to young people’s online safety those who face the most risks online often rely most online for support. This illustrates the need to understand the unique circumstances young people face and adapt support accordingly – there is no one size fits all. Having the latest technology and skills alone are not enough to mitigate encountering of upsetting content online. Check out the 2021 Digital Youth Index report and custom data visualisation tool for further insights around young people and those who are most at risk in this digital world. 

more from this category
Digital access and inclusion
Group of young people

20 September 2022

Listening to young people: Gearing up for this year’s Nominet Digital Youth Index

Now in its second year, the Index is the first holistic nationwide survey of its kind and has been used widely by policy makers and civil society organisations. Amy O'Donnell, Senior Programme Manager at Nominet discusses how with our research partner Opinium we’re already unearthing fascinating new findings.

Read this article
Internet safety and countering harms
Who Cares? Scotland tile image

18 July 2022

Digital Wellbeing Report, Who Cares? Scotland

A report created by Who Cares? Scotland drawing on the findings from their survey created by the Digital Wellbeing Group. They spoke to people across 24 local authorities to identify the main dangers online and the effects that digital skills and technology may have on an individual’s emotional, social, physical, and mental health.

Visit their website
Internet safety and countering harms
Image of interviewees, mum Sarah and 13 year old Grace

5 January 2022

Interview: Grace, 13, discusses internet safety with mum Sarah

Hear from Grace, 13, as she discusses internet safety, exploring social media and the impact of online learning on her and her classmates alongside mum Sarah.

Visit their website

Our interactive data tool

Explore the data

Dive into the Index data and dig out the insights most valuable to you by filtering for age, location or topic.

Explore the tool