1. As the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, our submission is focused on our evidence of girls and young women’s experiences of online harms - both during this crisis as, well as research we’ve collected as part of the wider context of girls lives online over the past decade.
2. Our research shows that girls face particular gendered pressures online and that some of these have been heightened during the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. We believe that the experiences of girls and young women should be listened to and taken seriously, and that their experiences should be considered in the development of measures and decisions during this difficult time.
3. 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. Each year the findings build upon those of previous surveys and cover a range of issues affecting girls from education, health and wellbeing, aspirations and safety on and offline.
Online Harms White Paper 2019
4. In June 2019, we responded to the government’s consultation on its Online Harms White Paper. A summary of our recommendations are;
Covid-19 and girls lives online
5. Our research, ‘Early findings on the impact of Covid-19 on girls and young women’, conducted in early May 2020 reveals, whist not surprising, girls and young women are spending more time online during lockdown. Some of this is positive as they connect to others and use it as a tool to learn. But with increased time online, girls are facing increased pressures from social media around their appearance and what they’re doing. The crisis has increased their concern about fake news.
Girls tell us some of the positives of being online during this time:
Zooming with family and friends helps me feel better (Girl, 11-14)
6. However, with more time being spent online, those aged 15-18 tell us they’re also facing more pressures:
‘I think girls are struggling with pressures to use this time to lose weight and get a ‘summer body’.’ Young woman, aged 15 to 18
7. The crisis has also increased girls and young women’s concerns about fake news:
‘I hate all the misinformation.’ Young woman, 15 to 18
8. Girls and young women want to feel like their voices and concerns have been heard and are taken seriously. Like many of us, their daily lives have radically changed, and they need accurate and reliable information to help them navigate this uncertain time. Those aged 11-18 tell us about what they want:
9. Our wider research shows that online abuse and harassment is an issue that particularly affects girls and young women. We are concerned that with the current situation, where people are using the internet more, girls and young women are at a higher risk of harassment and abuse online and could be exposed to unwanted sexual imagery and harmful content. Reports by the Internet Watch Foundation and Barnardo’s have also reflected these concerns.
Our 2019 Girls Attitudes Survey revealed that
In 2018 we asked girls about their experiences online:
And how they respond to offensive behaviour online:
In 2017 we asked about their top worries online:
10. We also found that 22% of girls aged 7-10 say their parents post pictures of them on social media without asking for their permission.
Online pressures and mental health
11. Our research shows that girls’ and young women’s happiness has declined in the last decade. And that the pressures and harassment they experience online can contribute to how they feel. With increased worries and uncertainty at this time, alongside increased pressures including online, we expect their happiness to be negatively impacted. Our research shows, that even before this intensified period, social media can be a significant pressure for girls:
Girlguiding activity during coronavirus
12. We believe that having an adventure is trying something new for the first time, it’s embracing play and making the everyday extraordinary – and we need to make sure children and young people can still experience this even during current crisis. That’s why Girlguiding has launched it’s online offer - Adventures At Home - a range of activities to help children, parents and carers find simple ways to create fun, adventure and boost wellbeing. Adventures At Home provides weekly activities for children and young people to build their wellbeing in fun and playful ways at home.
13. Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, with over 500,000 members. Thanks to the dedication and support of 100,000 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.