A recent global survey of 14,000 girls aged 15–25 in 22 countries including Canada, showed that more than half (58 percent), have experienced online abuse or harassment.

In Canada, the results are even higher at 62 percent.

The report, titled Free to be online? Girls’ and young women’s experiences of online harassment shows how significant social media is in young people’s lives and how online abuse disempowers girls by shutting them out of a space widely used for activism, entertainment, learning, and to keep in touch with friends and family.

To deal with online abuse, 19 percent of the girls surveyed in Canada stated that they would stop posting content that expresses their opinion. Eight percent said they would quit the social media platform on which the harassment happened. Almost half of those surveyed (48 percent) would choose to ignore the harassment, while 37 percent would choose to report/block the harasser or increase their privacy settings.

While social media platforms offer some technical solutions, including reporting and escalation mechanisms, and monitor content on their platforms, significant changes must come into effect to protect girls.


More from the survey: 

  • Of the respondents who have been abused online, nearly 60% said they’ve experienced insulting language, followed by targeted humiliation (41%) body shaming (39%) and threats of sexual violence (39%).
  • More than half of respondents from the LGBTQ+ community said they’d been harassed for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and nearly 40% who are part of an ethnic minority have faced attacks on their ethnicity or race.
  • Respondents said Facebook is the leading platform for attacks — 39% said they’ve faced abuse on it — followed by Instagram (23%), WhatsApp (14%), Snapchat (10%), Twitter (9%) and TikTok (6%).
  • One in five survey respondents said they or a friend had felt their physical safety was in danger because of internet abuse, and many reported it took a toll on their mental health (38%), lowered their self-esteem (39%) and created issues at school (18%).

We know it is hard to speak up. 

We also know how hard it is to face abuse alone.

We want all girls to know there is a confidential and safe place to talk and learn more about their experience of abuse.

Need support? Call BWSS 24/ 7 Crisis and Intake Line 1.855.687.1868