The largest-ever global study of girls’ experiences on social media has revealed that the majority of girls experience online abuse and harassment, with Australian girls suffering more than the global average.
The study by Plan International surveyed 14,000 young women and girls aged 15-25 from 22 countries, including 1000 from Australia.
In Australia, 65 per cent of girls and young women surveyed had experienced some form of online harassment on social media (compared to the global figure of 58 per cent), with abusive language, deliberate harassment, body-shaming, and threats of sexual violence the most common forms.
Forty per cent of those surveyed said they were harassed by someone from school or work, 29 per cent by a friend and 16 per cent by a former partner. More than one-third said they had been harassed by anonymous social media users.
Thirty-five per cent of the young women surveyed said they reported their abuser to the relevant social media platform, but the reporting mechanisms were often ineffective.
While the research was conducted before the coronavirus pandemic, National eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant recently said online abuse – particularly revenge porn – had skyrocketed during the pandemic and online platforms had lost control of what happened on their sites.
The commission reported an 87 per cent jump in cyber bullying among young people, a 120 per cent jump in child sexual abuse material and a 245 per cent increase in revenge porn.
Plan International are calling on social media companies “to create stronger reporting mechanisms for violence that meet girls’ needs and hold perpetrators to account.”