Half of UK girls have experienced some form of online harassment

Posted on 15 August 2017

Plan International UK have released the results of a survey showing that almost half of all girls in the UK have experienced some form of harassment or abuse on social media.

Surveying 1000 young people between the age of 11 and 18 years, Plan International UK found that:

  • Almost half of UK girls and 40% of boys have experienced harassment or abuse on social media
  • 23% of girls have felt harassed by someone contacting them regularly on social media, compared with 13% of boys
  • 22% of girls and 18% of boys have received abusive comments on a status or photo they have posted
  • 73% of girls and 59% of boys said that they had changed their behaviour online in order to stem criticism

Whilst both girls and boys reported experiencing harassment or abuse online, the survey found that the nature of the abuse was different according to their gender. As Lucy Russell, UK Girls’ Rights Campaign Manager at Plan International UK, writes in her blog:

“It can be threats of sexual violence, comments about appearance or what constitutes ‘acceptable behaviour’, or telling them not to speak out and have an opinion – the abuse is different to girls.”

Alongside the research, Plan International UK have launched the campaign #GirlsBelongHere asking young people to have their say and reclaim digital spaces.

Tackling online sexual harassment

These findings demonstrate the importance of tackling online harassment of young people so that they can be free to express themselves and explore the internet positively and safely.

Here at Childnet, we have begun a new project which specifically looks at peer-based online sexual harassment amongst young people aged 13-17 years old. Project deSHAME aims to develop more effective education and resources to encourage young people to use the internet safely and responsibly, encourage reporting and reduce levels of peer-based online sexual harassment.

Working in partnership with Save the Children (Denmark), Kek Vonal (Hungary) and the University of Central Lancashire, we hope to empower young people, teachers and the wider community to effectively prevent and respond to online sexual harassment.

If you are an organisation or a professional working with young people and are interested in this issue and want to find out more then please contact Maithreyi Rajeshkumar at [email protected].


If you are a young person and need support about harassment online then here are some helpful organisations and advice:


  • How to make a report – Find out how you can report on various platforms from Instagram to Snapchat - http://www.childnet.com/resources/how-to-make-a-report
  • Childline  - You can get confidential help and advice about any problem that you may have. You can chat online at www.childline.org.uk  or call for free on 0800 1111.
  • The Mix  - Free confidential support for young people under 25 that will help you explore any issue that is worrying you and find organisations that can help you further. You can chat online at www.themix.org.uk or call for free on 0808 808 4994
  • Stonewall - An organisation for all young lesbian, gay, bi and trans people – as well as those who are questioning. There’s helpful advice on their website and you can also find out about other local services in your area. www.youngstonewall.org.uk


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