Young adults aged 18 to 24 are more likely than older Australians to experience some forms of digital harassment and abuse, according to new research from RMIT and La Trobe universities.
The research surveyed 3000 Australian adults aged 18 to 54 about their experiences of online and mobile-based harassment and abuse. More than 30 interviews were conducted with law enforcement, legal services and domestic and sexual violence services about system responses.
Overall, women and men were just as likely to report experiencing any form of digital harassment and abuse. However, the nature and impacts of these online harms differed significantly by gender and age. So what can we do?
Almost two-thirds of those surveyed (62.3%) reported experiencing some form of digital harassment and abuse. One in five women overall, and two in five women aged 18 to 19 (37%), reported that someone had sexually harassed them.
Men reported harassment from male and female perpetrators equally. Women, however, were much more likely to be harassed by male perpetrators.
One in ten said that a nude or semi-nude image of them was sent on to others without their permission.
Women (56%) were significantly more likely than men (36%) to be “moderately”, “very”, or “extremely” upset by the digital harassment, and to have left a site or turned off their device as a result of the experience.
Most surveys to date have focused on children and young people’s online experiences, such as cyberbullying. This data shows that digital harassment and abuse is a very common experience for Australian adults too.