Research in the theater: How do young people react to hurtful comments online?

Hurtful online behaviour such as online hate speech is becoming increasingly common. Not only famous Dutch people such as influencers are affected by it, but it also occurs among youth. It is good to stand up for the victim (online) when you read unkind comments, for example. Unfortunately, this does not always happen according to researchers Esther Rozendaal and Chiara de Jong from the Movez Lab. They conducted research into online hurtful behaviour and visited the theater together with forty first-year students from a pre-vocational secondary school in Zoetermeer.

The play: Block or Bless

In the theater, a very special performance was shown. The actors pretended to be influencers and played various scenes in which they were confronted with hurtful online behaviour and received hate reactions. For example, someone played the role of a victim who had sent photos of herself in her underwear to her boyfriend who had shared them with the whole school. The youth in the audience expressed their opinion on whether they thought the scenes were okay or if the hurtful behaviour went too far, by holding up a green or red card. If too many youth held up the red card, the play was paused. Together with the actors, the youth discussed why they thought the hurtful behaviour went too far and whether and how they would help the victim.

Researchers Esther and Chiara were also in the audience to see how the youth reacted to the different scenes. This allowed them to see what youth think of mean behaviour on the internet and why they sometimes do or do not take action to do something about it. "We know that youth sometimes don't dare to stand up for the victim because they are afraid of becoming victims themselves. Even if youth think certain things go too far, the fear of receiving mean reactions themselves is greater. That's why they prefer to say nothing," says researcher Esther.

Mouloud Jerfi has taken very nice pictures during the play, see them below.

Curious to learn more about the performance? Read the articles below.