Pandemic Fallout: The Spike In Online Toxicity

“Stay Home, Save Lives”

People have really got behind this expression, and with good reason. Governments around the world are wrestling an unseen enemy in an attempt to flatten the curve of infection rates. 

But keeping everyone at home brings a new set of challenges, challenges that must be addressed. One of these is the rise in online toxicity. This increase in online toxicity since the start of the pandemic has been drastic. We’ll explore some of the forms of online toxicity, why this has got so much worse now, and examine possible solutions to this burning issue. 

Online Bullying Rates Off The Charts

By certain estimates, cyberbullying rates have risen by 50% since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Kids and teens are out of school and are instead turning to online platforms to interact. One of the tragic byproducts of cyberbullying is that kids and teens will often choose to keep the abuse a secret instead of turning to adults for help. For some, it’s due to a sense of shame and helplessness. For others, it’s because they know their devices will be taken away from them to protect them. 

Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar, associate professor of Computer and Information Technology at Purdue Institute, explained that “Kids are usually not forthcoming with issues of cyberbullying because they’re afraid of losing their technology. Some teens would rather be cyberbullied than have their Facebook page or Instagram account shut down.”

What’s clear is that more time away from school, and more time online, has led to unprecedented levels of cyberbullying. In our “Rising Levels of Hate Speech & Online Toxicity

During This Time of Crisis” report, we found a 70% increase in hate speech towards kids and teens during online chats. 

Online Predators

Along with kids being more dependent on screens, there are fewer human moderators of online activity due to coronavirus-related disruptions such as mass unemployment and unpaid leave. This has made it easier for predators to roam the internet in search of potential victims. Europol, the EU law enforcement agency, noted “increased online activity by those seeking child abuse material”.

So the coronavirus outbreak has brought an increase in online predators from both sides of the equation. Kids are spending more time online, but there are also fewer human moderators able to react swiftly when online predators are spotted. 

Online Shaming

Online shaming has also seen a spike during the coronavirus outbreak. Traditional shaming has increased, as well as a “new” category, known as “corona shaming”. 

Just as an example, Laura Heath, a 24-year-old paramedic, was the recent target of an online hate storm after posting a selfie while at work. Many people online targeted her with abuse for taking this selfie when, in their opinion, she should have been focusing on her work. 

Some of the comments included accusations of “taking selfies while people are dying”, not doing her job properly, and even letting down the country.

This kind of shaming can be attributed to rising tensions due to the outbreak but is still no less hurtful to its victims. 

The Fight For A Safer Internet

The increase in online toxicity due to the coronavirus can be attributed to multiple factors, including kids spending more time online, less supervision and moderation, and a global atmosphere of uncertainty. 

If anything, this pandemic has shown how real-world events have a massive impact on the safety of the internet, especially when it comes to kids. 

We need to let this serve as a wakeup call. No matter the circumstances, the safety of kids comes first. 

This is what L1ght is passionate about; ensuring a safer online environment for kids, and ensuring that the next generation get to experience the wonders of connectedness without the dangers of online toxicity. Whether it’s social media platforms, messaging and games, or even hosting platforms and ISPs, L1ght’s technology can put a stop to online toxicity for good.

Interested? Reach out to hear more. 

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