Last Updated on 3rd May 2023
Reading Time: 10.5 mins
April 24, 2023
The internet is a constantly changing global forum that is filled with many different types of communities. These communities often allow people to express themselves in a way that frees them from what they consider to be societal ‘norms.’ In recent years, with the explosive popularity of YouTubers and TikTokers, some members of these communities have taken to popular platforms to widely showcase their subcultures. One of these subcultures is the Furry Fandom.
To be clear, this article is intended to provide safeguarding professionals, staff and parents with an awareness about Furries, reported concerns, and claimed misunderstandings surrounding the Furry fandom. Our online safety experts have provided further information on the risks and advice on what you can do to help make the children in your care safer. It is not promoting the activity, rather it is highlighting the risks and making suggestions about how to engage with those who may have an interest in.
Recent Claims and Hoaxes
There have been recent rumours, claims and hoaxes about students within multiple UK schools identifying as cats and engaging in disruptive behaviours, such as crawling on all fours and demanding litterboxes be placed in toilets. These stories have been picked up and reported on by various news broadcasters. Many use the term ‘Furries’ when referring to the students in question (though it is unclear whether this terminology has been used by any of these students to describe themselves).
As the topic of Furries is very niche and claimed to be misrepresented by popular media, it can be easy to identify the two together. However, it’s important to note that many of these stories have been debunked as hoaxes that originated from misinformation spread by an American lawmaker in early 2022. It’s also worth mentioning that the Furry community itself is a complex one, made up of many different identities and definitions of what it means to be a ‘Furry’.
There are also multiple TikTok trends and social media posts that fuel and play into these rumours popping up across the world. It has been a popular topic on forums such as MumsNet, as well as a news story from The Sunday World. While some posts claim to be true, it is difficult to ascertain their validity, especially as many of the locations mentioned play into the hoax stories.
Due to this complexity, our online safety experts were unable to substantiate any reports being made about this behaviour in schools or claims that mentioned students considering themselves to be Furries.
What are the Risks?
The Furry community claim to be founded on building confidence and respecting the creative choices and expressions of its members. However, as this group is spread across multiple forums and platforms with little to no moderation, it carries risks for vulnerable children and young people that include;
Should I be Worried?
It’s normal for young people to express themselves through ‘dressing up.’ Some young people will develop a niche interest or hobby or be encouraged to do so by others. Events like Comic-Con and the popularity of superhero fandoms have made the idea of creating and donning intricate costumes more mainstream and accessible.
The danger comes when an interest forms into an unhealthy obsession, fixation, escape, or when the activity may potentially expose the young person to risk. If a young person feels unsatisfied or upset with their situation in life, it might be easier for them to disappear into an alternate reality or world they are able to control. This is especially true if they do not feel they have a supportive community around them. Fixation at this level may cause dissociation, anxiety, depression, and irritability.
Many within the Furry community would argue that Furries are not inherently sexual and would distance themselves from what they claim is a public misconception about the reported sexualised nature of the Furry Fandom. They would argue that it is not the main draw or point of the community. However, as safeguarding professionals, parents and carers it is important that we recognise the uniquely personal parameters of Furry culture and the potential risks this can represent. As with any group, there is always the potential for someone with a sexual interest in children to exploit the ability to hide their true identity and motivation to engage with a child.
It can be difficult to teach children the importance of balance. We know that boundaries are key to healthy behaviours and relationships. When we add the fantasy/roleplay dynamic, which blurs the line between reality and make-believe, it can be harder to outline clear boundaries. This creates additional risk for children, young people, and vulnerable adults who engage in this type of interest, as they may not understand how serious a situation is until it is too late.
By Douglas Muth, via Wikipedia
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