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Online safety: Girls “much more likely to experience something nasty online” than boys, report found

Teenage girls are more likely to be asked for nude photos online or be sent pornography or content promoting self-harm than boys, a report has found.

New research has been carried out into children and young people’s online activity in Northern Ireland.

The report is based on survey responses from around 6,500 young people.

It found that girls are “much more likely to experience something nasty or unpleasant online”.

The Growing Up Online report was written by academics from Stranmillis University College’s Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU) and funded by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI).

It aimed to find out about children’s online activities and their safety online.

A total of 3,800 children aged 8-13, and 2,650 aged 14-18, took part.

Positive experiences

The report said that children and young people also had many positive experiences online, using their phones to:

  • Listen to music
  • Play games
  • Message friends or family

Nine in 10 of those 8-13 year olds surveyed said they had their own phone, compared to 99% of 14-18 year olds.

Youtube, Whatsapp, Snapchat and TikTok were the most popular social media sites for both age groups, but more than three-quarters of 14-18 year olds also used Instagram.

Many respondents reported spending significant amounts of time online.

For instance, a third of 14-18 year olds reported spending four hours or more online during a school day.

Almost two-thirds reported spending more than four hours online at weekends.

One in five 14-18 year-olds said they spent more than seven hours a day online at weekends.

“The impact of this high usage, as reported by the young people and confirmed by their teachers, was a growing trend for pupils to come in to school ‘wrecked’ or ‘in a complete state’ or with their ‘heads down… sleeping’ in class,” said the report.

Nude photos

One in five children and young people who took part in the research said something nasty or unpleasant had recently happened to them online.

The most common experience was that “mean or nasty comments” made about them or sent to them.

But there was a difference between boys and girls when it came to the type of nasty online experience they had.

Girls were more likely to have mean or nasty comments made about them or rumours spread about them.

More than 5% of girls aged 14-18 said they had been asked to send nude photos or videos online or expose themselves, three times higher than the rate among boys.

More than 5% of 14-18 year-old girls also said they had seen or been sent pornography, and twice as many girls as boys reported being sent “inappropriate photos” they had not asked for.

More girls than boys also reported being sent content promoting suicide, eating disorders and self-harm.

Previous research carried out in Northern Ireland had suggested that girls were more likely than boys to experience cyber-bullying.

(Source: BBC)


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