A new survey in the United Kingdom by the charity Girlguiding found that one girl in six has felt pressured to send nude images of themselves via texting or other digital communications.
And a full one-quarter of the respondents see such “sexting” as “a normal part of a relationship.”
The alarming results are found in the Girls’ Attitudes Survey done by Girlguiding, which talked to nearly 2,000 girls ages 7 to 21.
“This generation of girls is growing up in a digital society and the majority think digital technology is an essential part of everyday life. However, it’s also apparent that being online puts pressure on them to look and act in a certain way,” the analysis of the results noted.
It also said sexual harassment has increased, gender stereotyping is a huge issue, with “girls as young as seven feel[ing] “sad and angry.” Girls want role models in sports, technology, politics and other fields to which to aspire.
However, the executive summary explained, the “overwhelming message that girls and young women are sending us in this year’s survey is that they live in a world where sexism and gender stereotypes are entrenched in all areas of their lives.”
“From a young age, girls sense they face different expectations compared to boys and feel a pressure to adjust their behavior accordingly,” the summary said.
“Girls encounter stereotyping across the lives – at school, in the media and in advertising, in the real and the virtual world, from their peers, teachers and families.”
The girls, however, are not just accepting the status quo.
“Girls are using their voices to tell us what needs to happen. They call for schools to do more to encourage girls into subjects dominated by boys and to provide better careers advice; they want increased security and greater protention from threats online; they demand that the advertising industry ends its use of sexist, stereotypical and sexualized images. They ask to live in a world where they need not feel defined or restricted by their gender.”
For example, 95 percent said the advertising industry “should make sure adverts show more positive, diverse representations of girls and women.”
Fifty-seven percent said politicians don’t understand the issues girls and young women face, 55 percent say gender stereotypes affect their ability to say what they think, and 54 percent have faced unwanted violent or graphic images online that upset them.
“From as young as seven, girls are deeply affected by gender stereotypes,” the report stated. “Almost two thirds of girls aged 7 to 10 say they think girls are better than boys at being kind and around half think they’re better at putting their hand up in class. Yet significant numbers associated ‘being strong’ and ‘taking risks and not worrying about failing’ with boys. And even at this young age, girls say they are changing their behavior because of gender stereotypes. Six in 10 girls in the 7 to 10 age group will change what they wear because of stereotypes, while almost as many say they change how they behave and express themselves.”
The survey found 27 percent are left angry by stereotypes and 36 percent are more determined to succeed. But 16 percent feel pressured to conform and 19 percent feel anxious about their future.
Sixty-five percent of the respondents often heard gender stereotyping on social media and 64 percent on TV and in film. It came from teachers and parents, too.
One girl said, “More girls would be encouraged into tech if you destroyed the stereotype that only boys can use technology; loads of girls already use and have jobs in technology, they’re just not talked about enough.”
The Christian Institute noted, “Over a quarter of 13 to 21-year-olds told researchers they had found pornography by accident, while 41 percent had endured sexual ‘jokes’ or taunts at school in the past year.”
The Girlguiding report said, “When asked what would make being online safer, younger girls said they expect their parents to have control over what they see and block inappropriate sites.”
The report of the survey also noted that parents who post their children’s images on social media without permission are embarrassing them.