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Pandemic and online harm creates most difficulties for girls and young women

Pressures of social media and online harm along with anxieties about the COVID-19 pandemic are the greatest fears affecting girls and young women, a survey has found.

GirlGuiding asked over 2,000 girls and young women aged 7 to 21, both inside and outside of guiding, how they feel about the specific and emerging pressures facing them to

day, and what these mean for their happiness, wellbeing and opportunities in life.

While 71% of girls and young women said they had experienced some type of online harm in the last year, 67% feel anxious, sad or worried as a result of the pandemic.

Girlguiding UK chief executive Angela Salt said Covid-19 has significantly and profoundly changed girls’ and young women’s lives over the past 18 months.

“Throughout the pandemic, our research reports, including this one, have highlighted the need for greater consideration of the specific challenges girls and young women face. The results show that girls need more support with their education, mental health and in accessing opportunities as society opens up, so they can explore their interests, see new places, meet new people and develop essential skills for the future. The role of the youth sector, including Girlguiding, has never been so important in offering children and young people what they’ve missed,” she added.

The survey found:

  • 67% of girls and young women felt sad, anxious or worried as a result of the pandemic

Girls and young women are feeling less happy than they did a few years ago. They also know more girls and young women their age suffering with their mental health. Because of the pandemic they feel sadder, lonelier and are worried about their futures.

  • 53% of girls and young women said they feel they have missed out on learning vital skills for the future because of the pandemic.

Respondents revealed that they are worried they’ve fallen behind at school. They tell us they’ve missed out on opportunities to learn and develop skills outside of school and that this has had a negative impact.

  • 71% have experienced some form of online harm.

Girls and young women have connected with others more while being online during the pandemic. But they’ve also felt self-conscious when on video calls and the majority have experienced some form of online harm such as hate speech, images that made them insecure about how they look, harassment or bullying.

  • 65% of girls have been inspired by teachers and key workers during the pandemic.

Some girls and women are now considering working in the health sector while others are thinking about jobs they can do online. They also believe women still have to work much harder than men to succeed, and give us their opinions on starting their own businesses.

  • 85% want young people’s views to be central to government decisions about the future.

Girls and young women want the government to listen to young people’s concerns as they make decisions about the future.

Girls’ and young women’s happiness has been in decline over the past 10 years but has dropped drastically in the last three years since we asked about it in 2018.

  • In 2009, almost nine in ten (88%) girls and young women aged 7 to 21 said they were happy most of the time.
  • This decreased in 2018 to eight in ten (81%).
  • This year, just over three in five (63%) say they’re happy most of the time.

Furthermore girls and young women now know more peers their age with anxiety disorders compared to when they were last asked by GirlGuiding in 2018.

“The past year has tested girls and young women like no other. Over half (53%) of girls aged 7 to 10 say they’ve felt more sad, anxious or worried than they did before the pandemic. This increases to seven in ten (70%) for 11 to 16-year-olds and 78% for 17 to 21s,” said the report.

Angela Salt concluded: “This is the moment for us all to listen and act in the interest of girls and young women. This is the moment to create a more equal society where the concerns of children and young people are taken seriously. We must avoid a lost generation. Girls and young women are telling us how we can recover and grow – as a movement, and as a society – and we need to take heed.”

Girls attitudes survey 2021

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