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Reclaiming the internet for girls

Girls' rights in the digital world

Read about the pressures girls face online

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22% of girls have received abusive comments on a status or photo they’ve posted, compared to 18% of boys

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23% of girlshave felt harassed by someone contacting them regularly on social media, compared to 13% of boys

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45% of girls say social media makes them feel they have to look or act a certain way, compared to 29% of boys

A photograph of Aisha

A generation of girls under pressure

While many young people struggle with the pressures of social media, girls are facing more abuse, more harassment and more issues specifically to do with gender. They’re also more likely to be pressured into sending photos which are then shared – and to find themselves criticised, rather than those who post the images without their consent.

“It’s not really the girl's fault if she posts a photograph [and gets harassed online], it’s the people who comment the mean stuff or the negative or horrible stuff. Because what’s a girl posting a picture? It’s not harming me, it’s not harming you. It’s not the girl’s fault, it’s the person who’s bullying the girl.”
– Aisha, 17

Image of a girl with a cross over her mouth to illustrate self-censorship

43% of girls hold back their opinions on social media because they’re afraid of being criticised

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13% of girls have stopped going on social media to avoid negative responses

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83% of girls believe they should be taught how to cope with sexist, racist or other discriminatory behaviour

A photo of Ambrin, from the Youth Advisory Panel
Ambrin is from Plan International UK's Youth Advisory Panel

Protecting girls' voices online

Put together, these pressures are having a huge impact on girls. They’re censoring what they say online because they’re afraid of being criticised, and in some cases they’re removing themselves from the digital space altogether – either by their own choice, or because their parents and teachers believe it’s the best option for them to stay safe.  

“I used to have a feminist account with my friends and often you’d get quite violent spam from trolls online. It was very much about your gender as opposed to what you are saying. The general advice is to come off social media and not let it get to you. It’s not done in an unkind way – it’s just the only way people know how to deal with it.” – Ambrin, 15

All statistics are from a survey conducted by Opinium for Plan UK, who asked 1,002 11-18 year olds across the UK about their experiences of social media.

If you're a young person who's been affected by these issues and you need someone to talk to, you can call Childline on 0800 1111. The NSPCC also have advice for parents and teachers about online safety on their website.


campaign against the global violence and discrimination that girls face