Young people are unlikely to report online harassment and abuse, a new report finds

Young people aged 12 to 18 are unlikely to report receiving or being asked to share sexual images without the consent of their school, parents or social media platforms such as Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram, according to a major new report led by UCL.

Findings released today by the UCL Institute of Education, the University of Kent, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the School of Sexual Education show that teenage girls are severely affected by the impact of unwanted image sharing and that the practice has become ” dangerously normalized ”for many young people.

The survey included 480 young people from across the UK – 366 through an online survey, with another 144 participating in in-depth focus groups. According to the results of the survey, just over half of the participants (51% – 54/106) who received unwanted sexual content online or shared their image without their consent, reported that they did nothing. When asked why they did not report the incident, about a third of people said “I don’t think reporting works.”

Among young people who said they had received unwanted sexual content online or shared their image without their consent, 25% told a friend (27/106), 17% (18/106) reported problems on social media platforms. media, 5% (5/106) for parents and only 2% (2/106) for their school.

Of the 88 girls in the focus groups, 75% (66) said they had received an image of the male genitalia, with the majority “not requested” or “undesirable”. Participants described cases in which the senders were elderly men who had created fake identities, but also discussed episodes of online harassment and abuse by boys in their age group and prominent peer groups. According to the results of the study, participants reported that almost half of the cases of sexual harassment based on images were from unknown older men, based on profiles.

Young people in the UK are facing a crisis of online sexual violence. Although these young people, especially girls, say they feel “disgusted, worried and confused” about sending and receiving images without consent, they rarely want to talk about their online experiences for fear of accusing victims and worry that reporting will make matters worse.

We hope that this report allows us all to better identify when and how image sharing is becoming digital sexual harassment and abuse, and to spread the message that although sending and sharing sexual images without consent can be common. and to feel “normal” is extremely harmful. “

Professor Jessica Ringrose, lead author of the report, UCL Institute of Education

The authors also emphasize how various technological features and the lack of in-depth reporting and authentication measures on online platforms, including Snapchat and Instagram, allow the practice of unwanted image sharing. The report criticizes platform reporting as “useless” because images are not always preserved, and young people are more likely to block someone than report abuse.

Several key recommendations have been made by the authors for politicians, school leaders, teachers, caregivers and technology companies. For technology companies, the authors call on online platforms to maintain a record of images, videos and messages to identify perpetrators and make it easier to report incidents.

The report also proposes that the government’s legal guidelines on relationships, gender and education be revised to remove any rhetoric blaming victims, such as teaching students that they must “resist the pressure to have sex.” They believe that this can lead schools to teach children incorrectly, that victims of coercion must be held accountable for changing their own behavior, while the behavior of perpetrators must change.

The co-author of the report, Dr Caitlin Reger (University of Kent), said: “This is a social issue and we need to help create an environment where young people feel able to speak and are confident enough to share their experiences.

“One of the main goals of our report is to help parents understand the digital landscape so that – instead of being punished – they can support their children in navigating this difficult terrain.

Margaret Mulholland (Policy and Inclusion Policy Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders) added: people.

“There is an urgent need for society to recognize that unwanted images that are shared online constitute sexual harassment and abuse. This report helps to identify the sharing of images without consent as harassment and provides schools with much-needed evidence to challenge the “normalization” of this insidious form of abuse. “

The full findings of the report will be presented at an online event organized by UCL at 5.30pm on Monday, 6 December. The speakers include Rt. Honorable Caroline Knox, Member of Parliament, Chair of the Committee on Women and Equality, and Anna Tretui, Head of Strategy, Ofsted.


University College London

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