Almost half of girls aged seven to 10 have experienced online harm in the last year

Almost half of girls ages seven to ten have experienced online damage in the past year, according to a study that warns of a “devastating” downward trend in happiness.

About 49% of the girls in this age group told Girlguiding that they had experienced at least one online harm in the past 12 months, such as: B. Receiving mean comments.

Almost a fifth (18%) said they had met someone who pretended to be someone else, while more than 11% said they had seen obscene pictures.

2,114 girls and young women between the ages of seven and 21 were surveyed between March and April for Girlguiding’s annual girls survey 2021, which was reported to the PA news agency.

Of all respondents, 71% said they had suffered online damage, including 73% of girls aged 11 to 16 and 91% of girls aged 17 to 21.

One in four (26%) of 11-21 year olds said they had received unwanted sexual images, half had received sexist comments, and 28% were harassed.

Girls also see “inevitably unrealistic and unattainable images of perfection,” with 45% of 11-21 year olds having encountered images that made them feel insecure about their appearance.

Disabled and LGBTQ girls and women are more likely to suffer online harm – 40% of disabled 11 to 21 year olds compared to 25% of those without disabilities – and 42% of LGBQ respondents compared to 24% of heterosexual girls and women Women reported being harassed online.

The results also show that overall satisfaction among girls and young women declines “dramatically”, especially among younger girls.

Two-thirds of girls (67%) said they felt sadder, more anxious, or more concerned, with Girlguiding saying the coronavirus pandemic “accelerated and intensified” those feelings.

And 62% of girls say they have felt more lonely in the past year, which has increased as they age.

63% said they feel happy most of the time, up from 81% three years ago, with a third of all girls feeling unhappy most of the time.

Only a quarter of seven to ten year olds said they felt “mostly very happy”, compared with 43% in 2018.

Girlguiding member and attorney Amanda, 17, said she wasn’t surprised by the results, which show a “devastating trend in decreasing happiness.”

“We are exposed to more and more pressure, both online – from harassment to images that depict unrealistic ideals of perfection – and as a result of the pandemic and the associated disturbances in everyday life.

“Pressure like this has a direct impact on the confidence and happiness of girls and young women in the UK.”

Girlguiding managing director Angela Salt said society must listen and act in the interests of girls in order to avoid a “lost generation”.

She said, “Girls’ mental health has been seriously affected. Online damage has been exacerbated.

“It is critical that we address the decline in girls’ happiness that we have seen since this research began over a decade ago.

“I am proud that girlguiding has provided invaluable support to the mental health and wellbeing of girls during the pandemic and recovery – by helping build confidence and resilience and giving them a space to have fun To go on adventures and develop their skills. But society needs to “do more to counter this worrying downtrend.”

Almost all of the girls and young women surveyed stated that they want to do more to protect young people from pressure on their body image.

Nine out of ten want stricter rules to prevent advertisers from “bombarding” them online with ads about weight loss or appearance improvement.

Girlguiding calls for urgent action to reverse the trend of declining girls’ happiness, online harm legislation to relieve pressure on appearance, and better protection for children from social media advertisements for weight loss products and “appearance enhancers “Product.

The Girls Attitudes Survey is supported by players in the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Laura Chow, Director of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said, “Girls and young women face so many challenges with positive and confident future prospects.”

Tom Madders, Director of Campaigns at YoungMinds, said, “It is shocking to see that so many young girls have experienced online damage in the past year and that so many girls’ lives continue to decline in happiness.”

He said social media companies need to minimize mental health risks, make sure their rules are enforced, respond quickly to inappropriate content, and alert users to support.

He added, “More needs to be done to protect young people from body image pressures by having companies play an active role in promoting body diversity and preventing harmful advertising on their platforms.”

Child and Family Minister Vicky Ford said: “We know that too many girls and young women have had problems like this every day – it’s just not okay. This is why it is so important to give them the tools and confidence to cope with the new and growing pressures they face.

“We have introduced new mandatory relationships, sexuality, and health education that cover key issues such as consent, privacy, and resilience, and that we expect to fully implement this semester. We have also strengthened our guidelines for schools and colleges to help staff be aware of issues that affect their students.

“In addition, we are investing more than £ 17 million to build on the mental health support currently available in schools and will work with the Commissioner to explore what can be done to combat online abuse ahead of government online safety Bill becomes law. “

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