【明報專訊】Are you using social media platforms? I guess most of you are.
Have you ever encountered online bullying and harassment? A recent piece of global research covering 14,000 girls aged 15 to 25 in 31 countries conducted by the organisation I belong to shows that girls are often targeted online just because they are young and female. More than half of the girls have been harassed and abused on social media and 24% feel physically unsafe. The youngest victim is only eight years old.
The abuses include the use of insulting language, embarrassment, body shaming or even threats of sexual violence such as rape.
A young Sudanese girl said ''I got messages asking me to send nudes or blackmailing me that they would edit my pictures in a bad way and spread them out.''
These stories are happening every day on different social media platforms, most commonly on Facebook (39%) and Instagram (23%), following by WhatsApp (14%), Snapchat (10%), Twitter (9%) and TikTok (6%). In other words, it is basically everywhere on the Internet. So, is there a way to protect them from harassment?
Another 17-year-old from Ecuador said she tried to block those people but they would always come back with another profile. Imagine living in fear all the time and there is no escape... And this is just a regular day for some girls!
The impacts can be devastating (極其嚴重的). Research states that 42% of the girls lose self-esteem, self-confidence and feel mentally stressed. 18% even developed problems at school.
Now, girls around the world do not want to stay in silence anymore! They have written an open letter to major social media companies and demanded them create a reporting mechanism tackling gender-based violence and find solutions together. But they are not the only power holders who must act. Governments should implement specific legislation to tackle online violence, develop initiatives that support a safe online environment, such as educational programmes on digital citizenship, support services for victims, and the collection and publication of disaggregated data on online violence. The international community has to work together to create consistent standards for addressing online violence against girls and minorities across borders and jurisdictions. With internet access growing across all continents and COVID-19 moving more of our lives online than ever before, online protection is our urgent priority.
by Dr Kanie Siu, Plan International HK
REPORT: State of the World's Girls: Free to be online?