Media Centre - 19th August 2021

COVID-19 has exacerbated gendered violence on social media for Australian girls – but a new online safety campaign is here to help

With much of Australia under COVID-19 lockdowns, social media remains a vital space for young people to connect with friends, family and community. Yet a spike in online harassment and trolling has also raised serious safety issues for young people online.

An innovative new online safety portal launched today by Plan International Australia, the charity for girls equality, in partnership with Facebook Australia, seeks to give girls and young women more control over their experience by raising awareness of the safety tools available.

The new girl-led online campaign – created by young people for young people – is a digital-first, presenting tips and tools that specifically target girls and young women between the ages of 16-25 who use Facebook and Instagram.

Featuring bold, bespoke illustrations, the portal walks girls through a number of strategies for improving their online experiences – including finding your people, joining online groups and communities, and navigating comments and messages.

It follows on from Plan International’s Free to Be Online, a groundbreaking report released on International Day of the Girl last October which surveyed 14,000 girls across 32 countries around the world and found that more than half have been harassed and abused on social media.

The report found that 65% of Australian girls had been harassed on social media, higher than the global average.

“The online environments young people are exposed to have a massive influence on our health and wellbeing,” said Siena, a member of Plan International Australia’s Youth Activist series and a co-designer of the campaign.

“Yet our education systems fail to provide a structure which facilitates healthy online engagement. Education is key to ensuring young people develop healthy relationships with technology,” they added.

Kayshini, another youth activist and co-designer of the campaign, said: “Having a positive social network can ultimately lead to a more inviting and healthy safe space. The influencers and people you follow on social media can contribute to a stimulating experience. At the end of the day, social media pages are a platform where people can contribute their thoughts, ideas and knowledge in a meaningful and respectful way.”

Alisha Elliott, Head of Policy Programs for Facebook Australia, said: “The safety and well-being of young people on our platforms is one of our top priorities. This new safety portal will highlight the tools and features we’ve built to protect young people against abuse and online harassment, and support Australian young women in having a positive and safe experience on our platforms. We’ve listened to the Plan International Youth Activist group and the girls’ voices they represent, and we are proud to collaborate with them in launching this campaign across Australia.”

CEO of Plan International Australia, Susanne Legena, said this new online safety portal will provide young women with a much-needed safe space to feel free and connected online.

“When harassment does occur, it’s crucial that there are effective ways to report it. This campaign, along with other collaborations and listening sessions Plan International and its youth activists are having with social media companies, will give those who know the problem best – girls themselves – a say in how to make this a reality.
“Facebook has demonstrated that they are listening to girls’ calls to make its platform safer and a space where girls in all their diversities are empowered and free to express themselves without fear.
“The past 18 months have highlighted the positive ways in which social media can bring friends and families together during challenging times, and connect people to vital information during crises. However our research has also highlighted how social media also has a dark side, where abuse and violence have moved online and where, for many girls, abuse is a day-to-day reality.”

“When you consider the shockingly high number of girls worldwide who are subject to abuse every time they participate in discussions online, these tools will provide a vital and timely pathway towards creating better, more empowering and more connected online experiences for girls and young women,” Ms Legena said.

Visit campaign page here

For further comment please contact Plan International Australia media and ambassador manager James Norman on 0451291775 or media and public relations advisor Claire Knox on 0452326549

Media contacts

James Norman

Media & Ambassador Manager
+61 451 291 775

Claire Knox

Public Relations Advisor
+61 452 326 549

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