There are various factors that contribute to the hostile environment on the Internet and gender simply happens to be one of them. This is hardly surprising, considering the torment that many people, females in particular, are occasionally subjected to. For decades, the fairer sex has been dealing with abuses, threats, derogatory remarks and sexual advances for something that isn’t in their control - their gender. Unfortunately, the same mindset has crept into the cyberspace and adding to their misery, especially of teen girls who are fairly active on the Internet. Parents need to know how to stop online harassment in order to offer a secure online environment to their young ones. However, law enforcing bodies need to realize and fulfill their role as well.
Teen girls and online gender-based harassment
Much to the dismay of teen girls, the menace of gender-based harassment doesn’t simply follow them around school grounds, but continues to haunt them on social media platform and even online gaming servers. While boys are not immune to it, girls are exposed to this form of online harassment more frequently, as evidenced by the study done by Pew Internet and American Life Project. The fairer sex may have already experienced some of the characteristic elements of online harassment in real life such as sex-specific derogatory names and comments, along with vulgar and rough gender-related humor. However, the hostilities directed at girls are even more severe in the online environment, with abuses and threats, including rape threats, getting added to the list. A research conducted by the American Association of University Women revealed that there are a significant percentage of girls that face sexual harassment on the Internet, though they are more exposed to the risk in school grounds.
Online harassment can be more severe than offline harassment at times as the perpetrator may abuse the freedom of expression and anonymity offered by the Internet. Furthermore, the lack of physical cues may keep them from realizing the impact of their words on the victim.
Effect of online gender harassment on girls
Gender-based harassment can be a painful experience irrespective of the age at which females face it. However, it can have a greater impact on teen girls, who are still in the process of realizing their worth. Getting abused, threatened and humiliated can take a heavy toll on their self-esteem and even lead to gender complex. Getting threatened by hidden offenders can instill fear in them, causing them anxiety and depression, with the latter capable of inducing suicidal thoughts if prolonged.
How parents and law enforcement bodies can deal with it
It’s vital that parents and law enforcement bodies address and confront the online harassment issue for the emotional, psychological and even physical well-being of teen girls. Parents in particular are in a better position to curb the threat by teaching their young ones respect for the opposite gender. Girls should be given advice on how to safely deal with online harassment situations. Convincing them to ignore the perpetrator or reporting him or her to a concerned adult can help them to bring the torment to an end. Law enforcement bodies, on the other hand, need to treat complaints of online harassment with more seriousness, taking a conclusive action against the offenders to discourage such behavior.
Parents need to understand that their young ones are just as much threatened on the Internet as they are in real world. The potency of the threats is any less in either of the two spaces. They must realize that irrespective of the words and actions of kids, they are heavily dependent on the protection of parents and other concerned adults.
Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project Parents and Teens Survey, Oct-Nov 2008.