Research shows 31% of girls between the ages of 13 and 17 will be targeted by unwanted sexual attention online. That number is compared to just 11% of boys. Those numbers are upsetting, but they’re also the reason companies like Cyberbully.watch are coming up with ways to help families fight back against cyberbullying and online sexual victimization.
Boys Are Impacted Too
According to Steven Carlson, the creator of Cyberbully.watch, the number of boys targeted by cyberbullying may actually be higher than reported. “Society has the false presumption that boys are always stronger, and girls are weaker,” Carlson tells Parentology, adding many cases where boys are the victim go unreported because it goes against the societal view of boys.
Sexism Fuels Attacks
While anonymity has long been blamed for the degree of hostility many users project onto their victims, Carlson believes users will also inflate their toxic traits due to the level of protection hiding behind a computer screen gives them.
“Sexism takes on a substantial role in the online world for many of these cyberstalkers,” Carlson says. “Often groups of like-minded individuals bolster one another’s terrible habits and egg each other into further targeting girls.” There have been plenty of examples of this type of behavior, like the 2016 targeting of Leslie Jones and 2018 targeting of Kelly Marie Tran. Both stars eventually left Twitter to put a stop to being cyberbullied.
Now, with emerging technology like deep-fakes and growing instances of “sexting” photos being shared or stolen, girls are also finding themselves dealing with potentially life-altering possibilities of having their images stolen or manipulated into sexually compromising positions.
Why it Happens
Experts agree online bullies feel little remorse when targeting victims because there’s a barrier allowing them to separate the online persona from a real person with feelings and emotions. “When someone is viewed as just an object; it’s easier to discount the emotional impact your actions could have upon them,” Carlson says. “This leads to more and more harassment. The more times someone is harassed and no action is taken, these online menaces grow more confident.”
The Good News
Fortunately, people are beginning to understand their online actions have real-world consequences. However, there will still be those who won’t be deterred. To deal with them, Carlson says services like cyberbully.watch are a good alternative.
“Before our service, there was no quick solution to tracking down multiple instances of stolen photos all across the web; so a parent would have to do a very deep dive on parts of the internet they wouldn’t normally visit,” he explains. “By providing a tool to help fight against these cases more efficiently, parents can feel more comfortable discussing sensitive subjects with their children.”
Hopefully, this will also provide comfort to those who are having their images manipulated or misused online as well, and give them back a bit of the power they may feel they lost in the process.