There are many forms of hate on the Internet, ranging from extreme racist sites to the cruel satire found on many popular kids’ Web sites. Sites such as ‘uglypeople.com’ may seem harmless, but they contribute to a kids’ online culture where cruelty to others is considered acceptable.
Given this culture, it's not a stretch to imagine kids graduating from sites where people are mocked for their personal appearance to sites where minorities and homosexuals are attacked.
White supremacist and hate groups are increasingly turning to the Internet to target young people for recruitment. Hate mongers look for vulnerable youth who can be brought into their community through private chat rooms and e-mail, far away from the public eye.
These groups also use hateful music to entice young people to their cause. When kids surf the Net for music, they can easily come across sites that sell hate music, or even make it available for free.
Some hate sites have areas specifically designed for young children. The kids’ page of the official Ku Klux Klan site offers homework help and advice for talking to your parents about racial superiority, in case they “just don’t get it.” Other sites give the appearance of being legitimate by offering harmless activities and crafts and links to respected kids’ sites.
Hate sites often hide keywords in their pages that can be picked up by search engines. Some of the keywords on one white supremacist site for women are children, toys, art, games and fun. If someone enters one of these words into a keyword search engine, this site will turn up in the results.
The purpose of a hate site isn’t always readily apparent. For example, at first glance, ‘martinlutherking.org’ appears to be a tribute to the American civil rights leader. In fact, it is a hate site created by a white supremacist organization.
Hate groups often cite free speech in defense of their activities. The Web site of the Canadian Association for Free Expression appears to be concerned with civil liberties, yet it promotes the right to discuss racist immigration policies. For inexperienced young people, such information on deceptive hate sites can easily be taken at face value and not fully understood.
Teachers can be instrumental in helping young people learn to think critically about online content:
* Teach students from an early age about media violence. Young people need to learn to respect others and to respond appropriately to violent media. Talk to them about real violence and its consequences, and discourage media that portray killing or pain as entertainment.
* Educate kids about online hate. Young people will better be able to recognize and avoid hateful content if they are taught the strategies hate mongers use and the history of racism. Help them to identify hateful content and symbols on Web sites; for example, swastikas, derogatory references to race or sexual orientation, and cartoon depiction of various ethnic and racial groups.