The notion that the internet is a mean, scary place now comes with some numbers to back it up.
A Pew survey released today revealed that nearly half of internet users said they’ve been harassed online, while three-quarters have witnessed it occur to others. Essentially, everyone on the internet has encountered harassment one way or the other.
There are different degrees of harassment. Of 40% of internet users who said they’ve been harassed, 55% said they’ve been called names or had someone try to embarrass them.
But there are other, more severe forms of harassment, and young women are experiencing them at a seriously disproportionate rate:
Among men and women aged 18-29, 65% said they’ve been harassed online, while 92% said they’ve witnessed it happen to someone else.
Social networks accounted for two-thirds of all environments where online harassment occurs. A distant second: the comment section of a website.
Note: Pew puts Reddit in the discussion site category. Many people, including the writer of this piece, consider Reddit to be a social networking site. If Pew were to agree, the social media category would likely be even higher than 66%.
We all have different ways of responding to harassment—depending, naturally, on the severity of the offense. Here’s how the Pew survey respondents said they reacted to being harassed online:
That only 5% say they reported their tormentor to the authorities isn’t too surprising—people being harassed online usually have very little legal ground with which to prosecute.