A major new survey titled reveals that 76 percent of Australian women under the age of 30 have experienced online harassment. This International Women’s Day, let’s make the online world a safer one.
In 2015, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull invested $100 million in a Women’s Safety Package. At the launch of the package, Michaelia Cash, Minister for Women and Employment, said ‘all women in Australia and their children should be safe at home, should be safe on the streets and should be safe online’.
As a senior leader at an online security company and mother of a teenage girl, I have a unique insight into the threats to safety that exist online. Like many other women, I am spending more and more time on the internet myself. What I have noticed over the past year or so is the increased incidence of abusive comments and attacks online, as well as reports in the local media of women experiencing more serious forms of online harassment.
In February 2016, I was privileged to be part of efforts to make a safer online world when Norton conducted a major survey dedicated to uncovering Australian women’s experiences of online harassment.
Our survey found that in Australia almost half of all women and a staggering 76 percent of women aged under 30 have been harassed online. Let that sink in…just over three out of four young women in Australia have experienced some form of harassment online.
These experiences can have devastating impacts. Of those surveyed, 20 percent felt violated or abused and 16 percent felt frightened. Online harassment also negatively affected mental health, with 9 percent seeking professional help for depression or anxiety.
Yet our survey found that despite 70 percent of Australian women identifying online harassment as a serious problem, more than one-third of women who had experienced online harassment chose to ignore it. Given the prevalence of this problem, particularly with younger women, I hope the survey’s findings create more awareness and encourage women to report threats to their safety.
One person who wants to inspire everyone to be a part of making the online word safer is Tara Moss. Tara partnered with Norton in helping design the survey and is playing a pivotal role in drawing attention to online harassment targeted at women. ‘While International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of all women, it’s also a day to focus on issues that need to be addressed,’ she says. Tara also believes that it is our community’s responsibility to speak up against all forms of violence, including online harassment.
If you witness online harassment, you can help by recognising the problem and moving quickly. Offer support to the person affected. Don’t respond to the perpetrator but keep a record of the event and immediately report it to the relevant authorities and website operators, with a request for inappropriate content or individuals to be removed or blocked immediately. You can also try to prevent online harassment by checking your security and privacy settings, protecting your mobile device and regularly changing passwords.
Norton’s long-term partner, beyondblue, has given extensive support to individuals who have had negative experiences online. beyondblue’s CEO, Georgie Harman, thinks collaboration between groups such as hers and the IT industry is crucial. ‘beyondblue’s work is increasingly being carried out in the digital world, which makes our partnership with Norton more important than ever.’
Georgie believes it is vital we look out for each other, both in the physical and online world, and try to tackle online harassment to help improve and potentially save lives. As I see my daughter and her generation spend more and more time online, I couldn’t agree more.
This International Women’s Day we all have the opportunity to create a safer online world. Let’s all start taking steps to make the future safer for everyone, both online and offline.
In Australia: If you or someone you know has experienced online harassment, Norton’s partner, beyondblue, is here to help. Just call 1300 224 636.
For tips on how to deal with online harassment, click here