A new Griffith University study aims to investigate teenage girls’ experiences of sexting and bullying and how it impacts on their everyday lives.
“Social media is an integral part of teenage girls’ everyday life,’’ says Dr Roberta Thompson from the Griffith Institute of Educational Research.
“They text friends daily, chat with friends on their mobile phone, check postings on social media sites, update profile pages, and upload ‘glamorous’ selfies.
“Not surprisingly, many say they couldn’t survive without their mobile phone as it’s a fun way to keep in touch with friends, organise social events and find out what’s going on.”
But despite their positive claims about social media, a darker, less appealing side has surfaced according to Dr Thompson, whose doctoral study examined teen girls’ online usage.
“Super glamorous celebrities appear all over social media from Instagram to Snapchat and teen girls strive to emulate these ‘role models in their own ‘selfies’.
“While most girls acknowledge, to some extent, the ‘fake’ character of online postings peer pressure encourages the curation of aesthetically pleasing and conforming online identities.”
“With their digital devices in hand, contemporary teens generate new idealised versions of themselves, many of which are sexualised,’’ Dr Thompson says.
And it’s these types of images that can generate bullying from other girls and boys.
“Indeed teen girls, especially those aged 11 to 15 experience higher levels of bullying and are more likely to be pressured to produce nudge images, or sexts, than same-age boys. Boys are also likely to ‘persuade’ girls to sext them.
“They are more likely to report being sad, frightened and upset after being bullied and feel much less safe from bullying at school, on the way to and from school, and online than boys.”
Teen girls at two Gold Coast schools will be surveyed about their online habits and practices during the two-year project. They will also help create intervention resources such as blogs, YouTube clips, website pages and other online items.
“These resources will be publically available for policy officers, educators, parents, and other girls and young women,’’ Dr Thompson says.
“This project encourages participants to share realistic and in-depth examples of their experience and will help inform cyber-safety policy and interventions.”