20% of Belgian youth has been victim of cyberbullying
In Belgium, one in ten adult social media users has been the victim of cyberbullying. Among young people, that figure is twice as high, according to the National Sexism Survey #YouToo? by the Belgian Institute for the Equality of Women and Men.
Sexist attacks in particular make up a large part of this online harassment. One in three testimonies involve sexist cyberbullying: from sexist language, stigmatisation of bodies or sexuality to threats of rape. Both women and men are victimised. Young teenagers do not seem to be sufficiently aware of the boundaries of acceptable behaviour in the digital space, according to the Institute, which underlines that there is a clear need for sensitisation.
The study further shows that people are quick to get carried away in a discussion online, often regret their sharp words afterwards and look for a way to apologise. Only a small minority seem to regard social media as a permanent war zone in which anything is allowed.
"People sometimes seem to forget that behind that screen are real people," said Institute deputy director Liesbet Stevens. "Online bullying can have a big negative impact. Moreover, social media are part of the public space, including for the law. So by threatening someone with rape or sharing someone's nude images on it, you can indeed be guilty of criminal offences."
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