Teenage boys share offensive memes about Holocaust and rape to score ‘lad points’, expert says

Posted on: 2018-10-04 00:00:00

Majority of teenagers share offensive memes in private group chats, research finds
Majority of teenagers share offensive memes in private group chats, research finds ( iStock )

Teenage boys are sharing offensive memes about the Holocaust, rape and slavery to score “lad points” with their classmates, an expert has said.

More than third (36 per cent) of schoolboys admit to sending or receiving racist or homophobic pictures – compared to just 17 per cent of teenage girls, new research has found.

Nearly three-quarters of students, aged 11 to 18, have seen offensive memes on private group chats, according to a survey from Digital Awareness UK. And two in five boys see them every single day.

Emma Robertson, co-founder of Digital Awareness UK (DAUK), said the image-sharing ranged from the less serious to offensive images about “fat shaming”, the Holocaust, and the #MeToo campaign.

She added that memes – which are pictures or gifs, often with writing overlaid that can change the context of the original material – included “horrible comparisons with black people and animals”.

Ms Robertson said: “I think you have got the groups of students who are just looking to perhaps get lad points, or to entertain, to engage. And then I think you have actually got another group of students who don’t necessarily have the intention of upsetting, offending, being disrespectful.”

Speaking at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference’s (HMC) annual conference in Manchester, she added: “There are certain memes which are inexcusable. When you’re joking about rape, when you’re joking about slavery, it is ‘banter’, but you are still going too far with that.

“Offensive memes are the source of much upset and anxiety amongst the young people we work with. They are also contributing to the normalisation of racism, sexism and homophobia.

The survey of 20,000 students also revealed that 88 per cent of offensive content viewed by them was racist, 80 per cent was sexist, and 74 per cent as homophobic. “If you’re seeing this sort of content at least once a day, that’s going to affect you,” Ms Robertson added.

Mike Buchanan, executive director of HMC and former headteacher of Ashford School, said: “Teenagers, especially boys have always indulged in risky behaviour but it is disturbing that so many are receiving and sending racist and homophobic material.

“Teachers and parents need to work together to make sure young people understand about good relationships, respect, and sensitivity to others’ feelings.”

The figures come as DAUK and HMC launch a new campaign –which includes free lesson plans on healthy online living – to help pupils make good decisions about their technology use.

The research also revealed that half of students check phones after they go to bed and 77 per cent of them said their parents did not know that they did this.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Social media and online technology have many positive benefits, but when overused they are distracting and sometimes destructive. It is vital that young people are empowered to navigate these rapidly developing technologies safely.”

Eleanor Busby, Education Correspondent

Source: Independent

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