The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

November 20, 2013

Poll: 'Just kidding' doesn't make online slurs OK

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a shift in attitude, most young people now say it's wrong to use racist or sexist slurs online, even if you're just kidding. But when they see them, they don't take much personal offense.

A majority of teens and young adults who use the Internet say they at least sometimes see derogatory words and images targeting various groups. They often dismiss that stuff as just joking around, not meant to be hurtful, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV.

Americans ages 14 to 24 say people who are overweight are the most frequent target, followed by gay people. Next in line for online abuse: blacks and women.

"I see things like that all the time," says Vito Calli, 15, of Reading, Pa. "It doesn't really bother me unless they're meaning it to offend me personally."

Even then he tries to brush it off.

Calli, whose family emigrated from Argentina, says people tease him online with jokes about Hispanics, but "you can't let those things get to you."

He's typical of many young people surveyed. The majority say they aren't very offended by slurs in social media or cellphone text messages — even such inflammatory terms as "bitch" or "fag" or the N-word.

Yet like Calli, most think using language that insults a group of people is wrong. The high school sophomore says he has tried, with difficulty, to break his habit of calling anything uncool "gay" or "retarded."

Compared with an AP-MTV poll two years ago, young people today are more disapproving of using slurs online.

Nearly 6 in 10 say using discriminatory words or images isn't all right, even as a joke. Only about half were so disapproving in 2011.

Now, a bare majority say it's wrong to use slurs even among friends who know you don't mean it. In the previous poll, most young people said that was OK.

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