Survey Reveals Rising Fear Among Teens Over Street Harassment and Online Influencer Impact

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Within the spectrum of life’s daily motions, adolescent girls express a distressing account of being persistently subjected to sexual harassment, leading to a fear of navigating streets unaccompanied. The alarm was raised by a substantial survey involving more than 2000 young individuals ranging from the ages of 13 to 18, where about 27% of girls signaled their experiences centered around various forms of sexual harassment. Furthermore, a notable 44% conveyed a sense of unease when traversing streets in solitude.

The extensive survey, facilitated by Survation for the platforms of BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Bitesize, diversified its scope by engaging 2000 teenagers, an even distribution between boys and girls, in discussions of topics that transcended sexual harassment, extending to body image, anxiety, vaping, social influencers, and online safety.

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The findings from the survey projected teenage anxieties linked to explicit content they are unknowingly exposed to on social media platforms. More alarmingly, nearly one third of the surveyed individuals had seen videos released by the controversial influencer, Andrew Tate, who garnered significant appreciation despite public uproar. Unsettlingly, a high volume of teenagers admitted to feeling anxious either constantly or sporadically.

Bobbie, 13, recounts with unease the escalating fear she experiences while returning home from school ever since her transition into Year 7 at the age of 11. Harrowing anecdotes of verbal harassment, stalking, and unwarranted physical contact with individuals significantly older than her are parts of her distressing narrative.

Accordingly, Princess, 14, illustrates her strategies for ensuring her safety while returning home from school, while others express discontent towards the need to scrutinize their wardrobes for clothing which might attract unwanted attention. Sonia, 15, laments on the ramifications of their attire on their experiences while stepping out, while Rofeda, 16, and Kayla, 18, express their concerns about the dangerous consequences of resisting sexual harassment.

Boys were not exempt from such fears either. About 24% echoed similar concerns over their safety. Ashley, 15, voices apprehensions over the idea of confronting a group of boys in isolation during dark hours, acutely aware of the abundant tales of violence featured on social media.

Rosie, 16, a participant of the “Our Streets Now” women’s safety campaign underlines the need for educating people about the criminality of sexual harassment and the necessity to disentangle it from the preconceptions of flattery.

The conversation also drifted into the realm of online influencers where teenage boys registered their acquiescence to the ideas propagated by Andrew Tate, desensitizing them to the charges of rape and human trafficking pending against him and his brother. Eddie, 15, highlights that Tate’s persuasive ideology appears to reinforce traditional gender roles, a concern shared by Emily, 15, who notes the influencer’s increasing influence among teenage boys. Out of the respondents who had seen Tate’s videos, a disconcerting 38% voiced their approval.

The poll also divulges the widespread anxiety experienced among teenagers due to their compulsion to measure up to the standards set by influencers, causing 58% of teenage girls to feel pressurized into altering their physical appearances. Francesca, 15, attributes the consumption of unrealistic online content for breeding insecurities and negatively impacting the psychosocial health of adolescents.

The feeling of anxiety was reportedly pervading over a quarter of the surveyed population, citing academics, peer pressure, and school as predominantly triggering instances. It also indicates the unhealthy dependence on smartphones and the consequential anxiety experienced in its absence.

Raw statistics revealed that 20% of the 980 girls who responded had been recipients of unsolicited explicit content, burdening the responsibility on social media companies to implement mechanisms for curbing the accidental viewing of explicit content. In response, a governmental spokesperson assures the enforcement of age restrictions and protective measures through the impending Online Safety Bill.

The matter of vaping, practiced by a third of the surveyed adolescents, was addressed, with 25% fearing addiction. Exotic flavors and aesthetic appeal reportedly contributed to their popularity, despite the growing calls for banning economically disposable vapes.

Adding to the discourse, Michelle Donelan, Minister for Science, Innovation, and Technology warns of the potential medical implications of vaping consumption in adolescents. A large 70% of vapers suggested that they would probably reconsider their choices if the appealing flavors were curtailed.

Meanwhile, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Rachel de Souza stresses the urgency of child protection policies against online pornography and harmful media consumption, seconding the apprehensions expressed by the surveyed population. She also underlines the detrimental consequences of cyber engagement on young people’s mental health, safety, and wellbeing.

Despite the gloomy overlay, the survey managed to extract inherently optimistic sentiments, reporting that 66% of participants remained hopeful about their future, with a similar fraction attributing utmost importance to their family. Echoing this optimism, Fran reassures, “I still think we can have a good future”.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.