21CSLA Research Brief: Insights for Educators and School Leaders: Understanding and Addressing Online Hate Speech


Over the past several years, hate speech and hate-related incidents have become a growing concern in American schools and across the world. Online spaces, in particular, have emerged as one of the settings where hate speech occurs. Given that nearly 97 percent of U.S. teens report using the internet daily and the percentage of teens who use the internet “almost constantly” continues to grow from 24 percent in 2014–2015 to 46 percent in 2022, young people born in the digital age are especially vulnerable to negative content online. In recent years, researchers interested in the well-being of children and adolescents have expanded their focus from traditional bullying behavior and victimization situated in physical spaces to similar phenomena in cyberspace. Although limited, research on hate speech is growing. In this brief, we draw from recent empirical studies and systematic reviews pertaining to online hate speech and its impact on student well-being to inform reflection questions for educators and leaders. We first summarize current debates around the definition of online hate speech and its connection to related phenomena, such as cyberbullying. We then analyze online hate speech through a social justice perspective, focusing on student subgroups that are disproportionately targeted by such speech. Specifically, this perspective involves analyzing the systemic inequalities and oppressions that contribute to the prevalence of online hate speech and online hate speech’s impact on marginalized communities. Lastly, we draw from the related cyberbullying research literature to provide practical insights for educators and leaders in creating safe and supportive school environments that protect students from online hate speech.

Hua Luo
Marisol Sánchez Castillo
Joy Esboldt
Moonhawk Kim
Aki Murata
Alison Munzer
Publication date: 
August 17, 2023
Publication type: