Opinion survey says young girls are more at risk
A recent government opinion survey revealed a worrying trend amongst attitudes and behaviour between modern young men and women. The recent report found that almost a third of girls aged 16 to 19 had experienced unwanted inappropriate touching whilst at school. In addition, a YouGov opinion survey uncovered some startling findings in relation to how young women are used to being treated by their male counterparts in school. The opinion survey reported that almost three quarters of the young women taking part in the poll had experienced sexual name-calling in school, whilst nearly one in three girls had seen sexual images on a mobile phone in school a few times a month.
There is no doubt that the internet and the availability of smart phones has changed the landscape for the next generation. It has not only changed the way we communicate with one another, but arguably it has altered the very way we see a new, rather skewed version of reality. In an age where a ‘role model’ can be someone who is paid to take their clothes off and pose for pictures, and where young people might grow up thinking readily-available pornography represents real relationships, it is certainly a challenge to maintain a ‘new normal’ in our fast-paced modern world.
But is the internet solely to blame for the problems highlighted in the opinion poll, in relation to our attitude towards young women? Admittedly, the rise of social media, selfie-obsessed profile pics and the availability and sharing ability of almost any image at any time has had a real impact on how we perceive ourselves (and, in turn, how others perceive us). The report on the latest opinion poll findings shows an even greater shift in the way language and body image may be affecting young women. In the article, Kerry Cabin (Founder of Tough Cookies Education) said: “[Through workshops] we have found that many young women see sexual harassment as an indication of whether a person likes them or not. It is used as a guide to figure out if a boy fancies them. In the 1970s a boy would ask them out to the cinema, now girls think a boy likes them if they slap their bottom. Young women are no longer feeling empowered. When we spoke to the teenage girls in our workshops, not one of them had been educated before on giving sexual consent.”
Yes, the problem may lie in female empowerment and e-education. We cannot halt the progress of technology, but perhaps it is our failure to keep up with change which has caused the problem. If, as the opinion poll states, one in four 16-18-year-olds say that their teachers never said unwanted sexual touching, sharing of sexual pictures or sexual name calling were unacceptable – then this is unacceptable in its own right. Hard-working teachers are already pushed, but perhaps it is time for the government to step in and make this a key part of the curriculum. But it doesn’t stop there. 40% of 16-18-year-olds said they didn't receive lessons or information on sexual consent, or didn’t know whether they did. In this instance, parents simply must help their children, and educate and empower them from a young age. It is up to them to warn them of the dangers of social media sharing and cyber bullying, that no means no and that nobody had the right to touch them unless they consent, and that sexual name-calling is never OK.
The brilliant PANTS campaign by the NSPCC aims to help parents to educate their children from a young age, which is a fantastic starting point. The charity have also released some great TV ads aimed at teenagers, warning them what can happen when they share images over social media. If we are to empower young women (and young men), we must keep up with the times and help them to navigate their way through it. We must educate ourselves in order to educate them. We cannot bury our heads in the sand over social media. It’s happening now – and we must arm young people with the tools and information to use it both positively and safely. Only with awareness can we begin to curb cyber bullying.
What do you think? Is the internet solely to blame? How can we empower young girls and boys? Is cyber bullying a real risk to young people, and what can we do? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in paid opinion surveys at Opinion Outpost UK today, and join in the discussion on our Facebook page.