Symposium Faster, Stronger, Higher, But at What Cost? Safeguarding Athletes from Psychological Violence in Sport: The Scope of Virtual Psychological Violence in Sport

Authors: Kavanagh, E.

Start date: 15 July 2019

Digital technologies have become an essential component in the navigation of everyday tasks and activities (Kavanagh, Litchfield and Osbourne, 2019). Virtual platforms have proven to be valuable to athletes, coaches and fans, but with increased connection comes the potential for misuse and abuse within these spaces. As Litchfield, Kavanagh, Osbourne and Jones (2018) highlight, gendered hostility, sexualized threats of violence and racially charged invective are part of a dark narrative of human behaviour within virtual space(s). This presentation will provide an introduction to virtual spaces and explore their adoption in sporting environments, while highlighting the dangers they pose to individuals engaging within them. Data will be presented from a series of netnographic studies that have sought to explore the scope of violence experienced in virtual spaces (e.g., Kavanagh, Jones and Sheppard-Marks, 2016; Litchfield et al. 2018; Kavanagh, Litchfield, Osbourne and Jones, in press). Findings to date demonstrate how virtual technologies provide a space for unregulated psychological violence to occur. Fans, athletes, coaches, officials and other key stakeholders can be the target of violence in online spaces and, in turn, can become the perpetrators of violence directed at others. Interaction in digital spaces can span one-off hateful comments to far more targeted, systematic and pervasive examples of abuse. Sporting organisations must increase awareness of virtual spaces and the threat they pose to the safety and wellbeing of individuals in order to prevent these from becoming a significant blind spot in keeping people safe in sport.

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