Certain minority groups including the physically disabled, LGBTIQ community and those with weight issues or poor mental health are more likely to be victims.
A new study finds a significant increase in the number of New Zealanders reporting online harassment, jumping 19 per cent in the last year from 54 per cent (2016) to a staggering 73 per cent (2017).
The Norton by Symantec study aims to understand New Zealanders’ exposure to online harassment ranging from unwanted conflict, trolling, character assassinations, and cyber bullying to sexual harassment and threats of physical violence, as well as the impacts of these experiences.
This year’s study shows a general increase in people experiencing online harassment across all age groups with the 40-plus age group showing the most significant rise in reports from 44 per cent in 2016, to 67 per cent in 2017.
Those under 30 continue to be the most targeted age group, with 81 per cent reporting online harassment as well as being more likely to be victim of more serious forms of online abuse such as cyberbullying, cyberstalking and sexual harassment.
The survey reveals that all members of the community were affected by online harassment, and while the number of incidents in each case may be limited to one or two rare events, it was concerning that the total number of reports had increased, says Melissa Dempsey, senior director, Asia Pacific and Japan, at Norton by Symantec.
“While the increased number of incidents could be due to people now feeling more confident to speak up, the fact that reports of online bullying and abusive behaviour is on the rise requires immediate action in terms of online users’ security and privacy.”
While the increased number of incidents could be due to people now feeling more confident to speak up, the fact that reports of online bullying and abusive behaviour is on the rise requires immediate action in terms of online users’ security and privacy
Younger minority groups singled out
Experience of abuse and insults (53 per cent) as well as malicious gossip and rumours (48 per cent) are now common, according to the research.
This kind of mild harassment is most commonly experienced amongst younger New Zealanders with 60 per cent reporting abuse and insults, with certain minority groups including the physically disabled (52 per cent), LGBTIQ community (64 per cent) and those with weight issues (64 per cent) or poor mental health (75 per cent) more likely to be victims.
These high incidences could be attributed to young adults’ regular use of popular social media profiles such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
Threats of physical violence, cyberbullying and cyberstalking
Report of threats of physical violence more than doubled since the last survey up from 16 per cent to 37 per cent, with younger men and people in the LGBTIQ community (56 per cent) most likely to be targeted.
Cyberbullying and cyberstalking reports also increased significantly from 18 per cent to 34 per cent and 15 per cent to 28 per cent respectively. Cyberbullying is especially a concern for younger New Zealanders (53 per cent), those in the LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning) community (55 per cent) and people suffering from poor mental health (51 per cent).
When it came to identifying perpetrators of cyberbullying men were more likely than women to say their bullies’ identities were unknown (37 per cent), a past work colleague or fellow student (17 per cent), or someone they met for just one or two dates (8 per cent).
Women, however, were more likely to say that they had been bullied by a former friend (31 per cent) or an acquaintance (28 per cent) and 37 per cent said they have been bullied by a stranger.
Fears of sexual violence/rape posed the largest online threat to women with 42 per cent being very worried or fearful. In addition, young women were twice as likely to be targeted by sexual harassment than men.
Alarmingly, only 23 per cent of men know someone else who has suffered online harassment. This is likely due to 59 per cent of men ignoring the problem. It is therefore likely the full scale of online harassment is not fully visible to most people, reports Norton.
While the study shows that the majority of people chose to ignore forms of online harassment the survey results did reveal that women suffer greater negative emotional impacts than men with 39 per cent expressing anger, 29 per cent feeling anxious and 29 per cent reporting feelings of depression.
The research notes 45 per cent of women who suffered from depression as a result of their experiences had to seek medical help, which confirms the detrimental impact of cyber harassment on mental health and the need for education around online security.
Review, recognise, report the problem
Norton shares three steps people should take to help combat online harassment:
Review your online presence on all devices:
Check your security and privacy settings.
Regularly change passwords.
Recognise the problem if it happens and move quickly:
Do not respond to the perpetrator.
Keep all records and evidence of the harassment by making a copy of the message, photo or video.
If you are witness to online harassment, help by supporting the person targeted and, depending on the situation, letting the perpetrators know that their behaviour is not acceptable.
If someone says or does something that is inappropriate or deemed as harassment, report it to the relevant authorities immediately.
If inappropriate content is displayed online, contact the website operators by phone or email, requesting the content be removed or blocked.
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