Every third child in Sweden has been exposed to degrading treatment online during the past year, according to Friends Online Report 2017. Every fifth girl in the ages 10-16 years has also been subjected to sexual harassment online. The girls describe that boys ask them for nude pictures and that the boys send them so-called “dick pics”, pictures of their genitals, without the girls having asked for them.

This is the fifth consecutive year that the Friends Online Report is being published. The report is based on a survey in which 1,001 children and adolescents aged 10 to 16 in Sweden, along with one parent/guardian per respondent, participated. The survey was conducted by TNS SIFO and was commissioned by Friends. During the past three years the number has not changed; about 30 percent of all children have been exposed to degrading treatment online.

– It’s horrible how degrading treatment and sexual harassment online has become normalized. Adults and especially the schools have a great responsibility to talk to young people about rights, consent and norms, says Carolina Engström, interim Secretary-General at Friends.

The Friends Online Report shows that 18 percent of the girls have been exposed to sexual harassment online, the same number among boys is 6 percent. A 13-year-old girl describes how she repeatedly received dick pics from several different boys on social media.

– We would never accept this kind of behavior in a workplace, where adults would send around nude pictures of their colleagues or pictures of their genitals to colleagues who haven’t asked for them. Still, this is the reality for many young girls today and this kind of online behavior ruins lives.

This year’s report has also looked into whether adults are good role models online. Half of the respondents have seen adults treat other adults badly online, and one in 10 say they’ve seen this frequently. The older the young person, the more likely that they have witnessed adults behave badly online – 8 of 10 16-year-olds answered “Yes, all the time”, or “Yes, sometimes”.

– We cannot expect children to behave better if adults won’t take responsibility for their own actions online. I think that many adults are unaware of the fact that young people notice what they share, like and comment on the Internet. We need to be role models also online.

Read the report here