We all remember the campaign speech last fall, when future First Lady Melania Trump announced she would adopt a key issue after the election: combatting cyber-bullying. Although the speech was met with a hearty measure of skepticism (particularly in the current online climate including her husband’s tweets), her message was important. “It is never okay,” Ms. Trump remarked, “and it is absolutely unacceptable when it’s done by someone with no name hiding on the internet.”
Regardless of our politics, the tenor of online conversations is becoming increasingly hostile and sharply misogynistic. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that while men are more likely to experience online harassment, women report greater emotional stress from these experiences.
Defined as “offensive name-calling, physical threats, stalking, deliberate humiliation, or any type of harassment over a sustained period,” the research notes that over 41% of all American adults have experienced online harassment. Over one-third of women who have such experiences report the incident to be “extremely” or “very” upsetting compared with only 17% of men.
Gender views are also split in other respects: 83% of younger women believe cyberbullying is a major problem compared with 55% of men the same age; women receive sexualized forms of abuse at rates double the rate of men; over half of women say they have been sent explicit images they didn’t request (compared with 37% of men); and more women believe that strengthening laws is the best prevention, while men believe the online community can more effectively deal with the issue on its own.
“Digital sexual interactions” have also soared over the past decade, most commonly known as “sexting.” About half of adults ages 18-26 have sent nude or seminude photos of themselves to others, according to research, and two-thirds report having received sexually-explicit photos of others. When the recording or distribution occurs without the consent of the individual photographed, the term “nonconsensual pornography,” or “revenge porn” is used, with women nearly twice as likely to be threatened or victimized in this way.
As you consider any of these issues, including hacking, trolling, and “fake news,” you can always expect misuse and abuse of the internet. It’s important to take action in response to online harassment, whether direct confrontation, changing a username, deleting your profile, blocking the person responsible, or reporting to law enforcement. Most importantly, be cautious and alert about internet safety and secure your internet tools with anti-virus and anti-spyware tools.
For Chrysalis, we need to share with others the potential dangers of cyberbullying – particularly involving girls and women – and to be cautious and alert about internet safety and security.
What can you do? Here are some key tips to share:
- Remember that nothing posted to the internet is ever private.
- Never accept a friend request from someone you don’t know.
- Avoid using geo-location services when possible.
- Use a different, strong, and unique password for every site.
- Most of all, trust your instincts.