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Exposure to Online Hate among Young Social Media Users

Soul of Society: A Focus on the Lives of Children & Youth

ISBN: 978-1-78441-060-5, eISBN: 978-1-78441-059-9

Publication date: 25 September 2014



The prevalence of online hate material is a public concern, but few studies have analyzed the extent to which young people are exposed to such material. This study investigated the extent of exposure to and victimization by online hate material among young social media users.


The study analyzed data collected from a sample of Finnish Facebook users (n = 723) between the ages of 15 and 18. Analytic strategies were based on descriptive statistics and logistic regression models.


A majority (67%) of respondents had been exposed to hate material online, with 21% having also fallen victim to such material. The online hate material primarily focused on sexual orientation, physical appearance, and ethnicity and was most widespread on Facebook and YouTube. Exposure to hate material was associated with high online activity, poor attachment to family, and physical offline victimization. Victims of the hate material engaged in high levels of online activity. Their attachment to family was weaker, and they were more likely to be unhappy. Online victimization was also associated with the physical offline victimization.

Social implications

While the online world has opened up countless opportunities to expand our experiences and social networks, it has also created new risks and threats. Psychosocial problems that young people confront offline overlap with their negative online experiences. When considering the risks of Internet usage, attention should be paid to the problems young people may encounter offline.


This study expands our knowledge about exposure to online hate material among users of the most popular social networking sites. It is the first study to take an in-depth look at the hate materials young people encounter online in terms of the sites where the material was located, how users found the site, the target of the hate material, and how disturbing users considered the material to be.



Oksanen, A., Hawdon, J., Holkeri, E., Näsi, M. and Räsänen, P. (2014), "Exposure to Online Hate among Young Social Media Users", Soul of Society: A Focus on the Lives of Children & Youth (Sociological Studies of Children and Youth, Vol. 18), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 253-273.



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