In 2017, more than half of Australians still experience online harassment.
Research released today by Norton by Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC) reveals a significant increase in the number of Australians reporting online harassment, jumping 20 per cent in the last year from 50 per cent (2016) to a staggering 70 per cent (2017).
The Norton study aims to understand Australian exposure to online harassment ranging from unwanted conflict, trolling, character assassinations, and cyberbullying to sexual harassment and threats of physical violence, as well as the impacts of these experiences.
This year's study shows a general increase of people experiencing online harassment across all age groups with the 40+ age group showing the most significant rise in reports from 37 per cent in 2016 to 61 per cent in 2017. The under 30s continue to be the most targeted age group, with 85 per cent reporting online harassment as well as being more likely to be victim of more serious forms of online abuse such as cyberbullying, cyberstalking and sexual harassment.
Melissa Dempsey, Senior Director, Asia Pacific and Japan at Norton by Symantec said the survey revealed that all members of the community were affected by online harassment, and while the number of incidents in each case may be limited to one or two rare events, it was concerning that the total number of reports had increased.
'Online or cyber harassment continues to be a real threat for both young and old," Dempsey said. While the increased number of incidents could be due to people now feeling more confident to speak up, the fact that reports of online bullying and abusive behaviour is on the rise requires immediate action in terms of online users' security and privacy."
Mild harassment now common threat for younger minority groups
Experience of abuse and insults (53 per cent) as well as malicious gossip and rumours (43 per cent) are now commonplace.
This kind of mild harassment is most commonly experienced amongst younger Australians with 67 per cent reporting abuse and insults, with certain minority groups including the physically disabled (59 per cent), LGBTIQ community (66 per cent) and those with weight issues (66 per cent) or poor mental health (69 per cent) more likely to be victims. These high incidences could be attributed to young adults' regular use of popular social media profiles such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.
Threats of physical violence, cyberbullying and cyberstalking reports on the rise
Report of threats of physical violence more than doubled since the last survey up from 16 per cent to 35 per cent, with younger men and people with minority status being more likely to be targeted.
Cyberbullying and cyberstalking reports also increased significantly from 20 per cent to 33 per cent and 15 per cent to 29 per cent respectively. Cyberbullying is especially a concern for younger Australians (57 per cent), those in the LGBTIQA community (55 per cent) and people suffering from poor mental health (48 per cent).
When it came to identifying perpetrators of cyberbullying, men were more likely to say their bullies' identities were unknown (39 per cent) or total strangers (30 per cent). 28 per cent of women who had experienced bullying said that they had been bullied by a former friend or an acquaintance.
While young women were only a little more likely to be targeted by sexual harassment than men, the range and variety of sexual abuse they receive is greater. Of those that had experience abuse:
48 per cent of women compared to 31 per cent of men reported said they had people send sexual comments and messages on social media accounts.
Requests for sexually explicit photographs/images was significantly higher for women with 44 per cent reporting this complaint than men (25 per cent).
Women also reported more instances of receiving unwanted graphic/sexual pornographic material as well as being pestered for dates by someone who would not take no for an answer.
Alarmingly, 77 per cent of men surveyed said that they do not know anyone who has suffered from online harassment, however 70 per cent have experienced it themselves. This indicates that most men do not share these experiences with their peers.
Impact of online harassment
While the study shows that the majority of people chose to ignore forms of online harassment the survey results did reveal that women suffer greater negative emotional impacts than men with 33 per cent expressing anger, 32 per cent feeling anxious and 29 per cent reporting feelings of depression. 57 per cent of women who suffered from depression as a result of their experiences had to seek medical help, which confirms the detrimental impact of cyber harassment on mental health and the need for education around online security.
Boosting online protection
'At Norton, our mission is to help protect consumers' digital safety and help people feel inspired to be confident online users, secure in the knowledge that they are safe from harm. We want to do our part to prevent abuse and harassment by calling on online service providers to be ethical corporate citizens by setting clear community conduct and service standards, and being prepared to enforce them against those whose behavior violates these standards," Dempsey said.
Norton has identified three steps people should take to help combat online harassment:
REVIEW your online presence on all devices:
Check your security and privacy settings.
Regularly change passwords.
RECOGNISE the problem if it happens and move quickly:
Do not respond to the perpetrator.
Keep all records and evidence of the harassment by making a copy of the message, photo or video.
If you are witness to online harassment, help by supporting the person targeted and, depending on the situation, letting the perpetrators know that their behaviour is not acceptable.
If someone says or does something that is inappropriate or deemed as harassment, report it to the relevant authorities immediately.
If inappropriate content is displayed online, contact the website operators by phone or email, requesting the content be removed or blocked.
About the Norton Survey: Online Harassment
Norton by Symantec commissioned an online quantitative survey through Morar HPI in 2017 with a sample size of 1,030 adults aged 18 and over. The survey aimed to understand Australian exposure to online harassment and the impact of these experiences.
Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ: SYMC), the world's leading cyber security company, helps organizations, governments and people secure their most important data wherever it lives. Organizations across the world look to Symantec for strategic, integrated solutions to defend against sophisticated attacks across endpoints, cloud and infrastructure. Likewise, a global community of more than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec's Norton and LifeLock product suites to protect their digital lives at home and across their devices. Symantec operates one of the world's largest civilian cyber intelligence networks, allowing it to see and protect against the most advanced threats. For additional information, please visit www.symantec.com or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.