Girls should be #FreeToBeOnline
This year, for International Day of the Girl, we’re calling on national governments to take action to address online misinformation and its impacts on girls around the world.
Globally, we’re living through massive digital change. The spread of false information online is an issue of our times. It affects all of us. But for girls, the impact is devastating.
False information has real life consequences. It is dangerous, it affects girls’ mental health, and it’s yet another thing holding them back.
Girls want the skills to navigate false information online. And they want all children to be taught digital literacy skills to prevent the spread. It’s a vital step.
Sign girls’ petition calling on national governments to educate children in digital literacy now.
For this report we spoke to 14,000 girls across 32 countries around the world about their experiences online. This is the largest ever survey of its type. We learnt that more than half have been harassed and abused on social media.
In all 22 countries, girls had been exposed to explicit messages, pornographic photos, cyberstalking and other distressing forms of abuse.
Most commonly girls were targeted with abusive and insulting language, reported by more than half (59%) of girls, followed by deliberate embarrassment (41%), body shaming and threats of sexual violence (both 39%).
The social media platforms designed to connect us as a global community, are drastically failing girls and young women. Inadequate reporting mechanisms are allowing harmful abuse slip through the cracks.
Girls in all of their diversity, need to know that when they’re abused and threatened online, they can report it. That they’ll be listened to. That action will be taken, and that perpetrators will be held accountable.
Right now, there is a silent crisis happening to girls around the globe.
Nowhere in the world are girls free from violence and harassment. No town, city, or country. Including nowhere online.
Online violence is serious. It silences girls’ voices – and it causes real and lasting harm. It robs girls of their self-esteem and causes mental and emotional stress. Nearly a quarter of girls we surveyed reported it can leave them feeling physically unsafe, with others having problems at school, with friends or family and in finding or keeping a job.
Girls are opting out of expressing themselves and their opinions for fear of retribution, and sometimes removing themselves from these platforms altogether. Once again, as we’ve seen with street harassment, perpetrators are using their perceived power to silence girls and to force them out of spaces where they have just as much right to be as anyone else.
As the charity for girls’ equality, Plan International Australia is declaring that enough is enough.
Will you stand with us, and with girls around the world?