15 September 2021
Written evidence submitted by Girlguiding (OSB0081)
1.1. As the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, we believe that the Online Safety Bill must do more to protect girls and young women online. Our submission highlights our research that shows the different online harms girls and young women aged 7-21 have experienced in the last year.
1.2. Girlguiding believes more needs to be done to urgently protect girls and young women online. In this submission we recommend that the Online Safety Bill recognises the disproportionate impact that online abuse and harassment has on girls and young women, especially girls of colour, LGBQT+ girls, and disabled girls. The bill must also recognise body image and appearance related harms, and the devastating impact this has on girls’ and young women’s mental health and wellbeing
1.3. Please also refer to the joint briefing submitted by the Centenary Action Group, which we have also signed. And the briefing submitted by the End Violence Against Women Coalition which we are members of.
2.1. The Girls’ Attitudes Survey is Girlguiding’s annual research project into the lives of girls and young women, aiming to build a comprehensive picture of the emerging needs, issues and priorities of girls and young women today. The survey provides a snapshot of the views of over 2,000 girls and young women from across the UK aged 7 to 21, within and outside Girlguiding. Since 2009, we have covered a range of issues affecting girls from education, wellbeing, aspirations, social action, and safety on- and off-line.
3.1. Our 2021 Girls’ Attitudes Survey shows that being online more during the pandemic has allowed girls and young women to foster closer relationships with friends and family. Almost a third (30%) of girls and young women aged 7 to 21 say being online more during the pandemic encouraged closer relationships with people they weren’t in touch with as often before. However, many have experienced harmful situations online during the last year, including hateful speech, harassment and bullying. And 18% aged 7-16 say they haven’t been taught about online safety during the pandemic.
3.2. While online in the last year, 71% of girls and young women aged young women aged 7-21 have experienced some form of harmful content. This starts at 49% for those aged 7-10, and rising to 73% aged 11-16 and 91% aged 17-21. The harmful content they saw and experienced includes:
3.3. Girls and young women aged 11-21 told us that these images online make them feel insecure because:
3.4. One in five (22%) aged 7-10 and 51% aged 11-21 have felt self-conscious during video calls in the last year. 94% aged 11-21 think more should be done to protect young people from body image pressures online. And 90% think there should be stricter rules to stop advertisers bombarding girls and young women with weight loss or ‘appearance-improving’ adverts online.
3.5. The harms caused particularly to young women and girls that result from appearance pressures and body image issues including bullying around appearance, harmful advertising around beauty, fitness and weight loss, must also be recognised, all of which have a significant impact on their health, confidence and self-esteem.
3.6. Our 2020 Girls’ Attitudes Survey shows:
4.1. Please also refer to the joint briefing submitted by the Centenary Action Group, which we have also signed. And the briefing submitted by the End Violence Against Women Coalition which we are members of, for further recommendations.
4.2. Based on our research and the experiences of girls and young women we recommend the following:
5.1. Our programme delivers fun and varied range of activities for girls from Rainbows (4-7) to Rangers (14-18). As part of our programme girls can take part in the following activities:
5.2. In March 2020 we launched Adventures At Home, a range of activities online to help children, parents and carers find simple ways to create fun, adventure and boost wellbeing during the pandemic.
5.3. Future Girl is our five-year plan to help our girls and volunteers make the changes they want to see in the world. In 2018, over 76,000 girls and 16,000 leaders told us what topics they cared about. Through the Future Girl topics, our members of all ages will explore and act together on the things they really care about. Our topic Self Believers, which aims to improve girls wellbeing. A core part of doing this is by addressing the pressures girls face around how they look.
5.4. Our Advocate panel gives girls a platform to use their voices and seek change at the highest levels. Advocates are a group of 18 Girlguiding members aged 14 to 25 who lead the direction of Girlguiding's advocacy and research. They act as media spokespeople for Girlguiding and speak at events. They are able to speak with decision makers including politicians about our evidence and what girls would like to see change.
5.5. Our British Youth Council (BYC) delegation comprises of 10 members - including the Chair - aged between 14 and 25 from across the UK. Delegates learn how power and politics work and how they can use their voices and connect their views with other young people to create positive change.
6.1. Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK. Thanks to the dedication and support of our amazing volunteers, we are active in every part of the UK, giving girls and young women a space where they can be themselves, have fun, build brilliant friendships, gain valuable life skills and make a positive difference to their lives and their communities. We build girls’ confidence and raise their aspirations. We give them the chance to discover their full potential and encourage them to be a powerful force for good. We give them a space to have fun. We run Rainbows (4–7 years), Brownies (7–10 years), Guides (10–14 years) and Rangers (14–18 years). Registered Charity No. 306016.
External Affairs Officer
21 September 2021