Girls need space to escape cyberbullying

Today's Girls' Attitudes Survey report shows that girls are facing a toxic combination of pressures – from gender stereotyping an to worries about getting a job. Advocate Hannah tells us her reaction to the findings on cyberbullying

Hannah Stubbs, Advocate
24 September 2015

As a young woman in today's society, I found the findings in this year's Girls' Attitudes Survey shocking, but not surprising

The rise of cyberbullying, in particular, upsets me. Fuelled by the increased availability of social media in every aspect of our lives, this is a growing problem, and now almost half of girls aged 11 to 16 say they have experienced bullying on social media.

Girls say that adults in their lives are out of touch with their concerns. The reality is that many adults don't understand the extent to which their children use social media and are therefore exposed to online harassment.

Bullying has moved online

Even though 'real life' bullying is still a very real and present issue, some of the most harmful harassment has moved online.

If girls were just bullied at school, for example, there would be an end point when they left. But cyberbullying has no end or boundary, because social media is part of almost every aspect of children's and teenagers' lives.

While social media can be used very successfully to raise awareness, make friends, or discuss issues, it can also be used viciously.

Most people assume that sites like Facebook are the most notorious locations for cyberbullying, but there is a vast array of other sites and apps where it also takes place. For example, on Instagram, an app where users can post photos, like pictures and comment, I have personally seen abuse directed at fellow users, targeting their looks, weight or clothing.

On Twitter internet trolls can target anyone with hurtful comments and for young girls wanting to express their opinions and views, this can be extremely upsetting.

Finding a safe space

Luckily, Girlguiding does a great job of helping girls and young women switch off from the online world. When I was a Guide, using phones during meetings was rare and discouraged, so that all of us could take a break from social media and enjoy other activities.

It provides a non-judgmental and safe space where girls can discuss the issues that affect them and be supported and bolstered by the other young women around them.

The Girls' Attitudes Survey finds that 85% of girls aged 11 to 21 say cyberbullying left them feeling isolated and lonely. It is clear girls need more support on these issues to protect their mental well-being.

I hope Girlguiding's findings spur on decision-makers to take action and provide more support and advice to girls – to help them deal with the complex pressures they face.

What else did the survey find?

Find out more about what girls told us in the full Girls' Attitudes Survey report