Australian girls aged 15-19 report endemic online abuse and harassment - new survey

A nationwide survey launched today reveals seven out of ten Australian girls aged 15-19 believe online harassment and bullying is endemic, and receiving unwanted and uninvited sexually explicit content online is now considered common behaviour.

According to the Plan International Australia and Our Watch survey, Australian females aged 15-19 do not want to share sexual photos of themselves online, with 82% of survey recipients believing it is unacceptable for boyfriends to ask for explicit content although they believe pressure to do so is now commonplace.

“51% of survey participants believe there is pressure to take sexual photos and share them online. This is alarming, outright cyberbullying, and dangerous as it can lead to low self-esteem and depression among victims,” said Susanne Legena, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Plan International Australia.

“Australian youth are some of the world’s most digitally literate, using smartphones, laptops and tablets at very young ages, yet this survey shows the online world has also become a platform in which Australian young women and girls face abuse and harassment.”

“Despite being unwanted, almost 60% of recipients believe girls receive unwanted sexual photos, messages and videos, this form of abuse is reaching girls inside their homes and bedrooms,” added Ms Legena.  

Our Watch and Plan International Australia jointly funded this research to better understand how Australian women and girls experience gender and gender inequality said Our Watch Chief Executive Officer, Mary Barry.

“The findings from this survey reinforce the need for Our Watch’s work on respectful relationships education in schools and underscore our call for governments around Australia to further fund comprehensive approaches to Respectful Relationships Education inclusive of online bullying, harassment and the impact of pornography to ensure students grow into adults whose relationships are safe, respectful and equal, on and offline,” said Ms Barry.

“Schools play an important role in the safety and wellbeing of students.”

“Evidence suggests the best way for schools to address and prevent all forms of bullying - including cyber-bullying and harassment - is through a systematic whole school approach which not only provides in-class education, but addresses the school culture, policies and procedures, and promotes gender equality within the staffing body,” said Ms Barry.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos, interviewed 600 Australians girls and women aged 15-19 from all states and territories. Results are published today in the report “Don’t send me that pic” Australian young women and girls report online abuse and harassment are endemic which can be downloaded from Plan.org.au/dontsendmethatpic

Quotes from survey respondents:

“[I want] Better education regarding sex for both boys and girls [and] information about pornography, and the way it influences harmful sexual practices.” – Young woman, aged 15 years.

“[Schools should] introduce [discussion of] pornography as part of the education as young boys are accessing it and thinking this is normal in relationships.” – Young woman, aged 15 years.

“We need some sort of crack down on the violent pornography that is currently accessible to boys and men. This violent pornography should be illegal to make or view in Australia as we clearly have a problem with violence and boys are watching a lot of pornography which can be very violent … This is influencing men’s attitude towards women and what they think is acceptable. Violent pornography is infiltrating Australian relationships.” – Young woman, aged 18 years.

“[I want] better understanding of girls today, better communication especially with online bullying and stuff, we need to be better taught too that if we are respectful and have better attitudes we can feel safer and have better relationships, and less pressure about us growing up.” – Young woman, aged 16 years.

“[[I want] More training at an earlier age within schools to explain the dangers of online predators and safety by actually having people who have experienced it talking to them so they know it is real and can happen.”– Young woman, aged 16 years.

Media contacts:
Plan International Australia: Clare Price, 0490 252 743, clare.price@plan.org.au
Our Watch: Hannah Grant, 0448 844 930, hannah.grant@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline: “If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. For more information about a service in your state or local area download the DAISY App in the App Store or Google Play.”

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit: www.ourwatch.org.au

About Plan International Australia
Plan International Australia is one of the world’s oldest and largest child rights development agencies. We work in over 70 countries around the world to tackle the root causes of poverty, inequality and injustice. Plan’s flagship ‘Because I am a Girl Campaign’ is working to create a world that values girls, promotes their rights and ends injustice.

About Our Watch
Our Watch is a national, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to preventing violence against women before it starts, through challenging its primary drivers – gender inequality and restrictive gender stereotypes.  The organisation works to increase gender equality and respect in all aspects of everyday life, such as in schools; workplaces; media; sporting organisations; and through social marketing, and developing and influencing public policy.