Norton by Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) today released the findings of its research into online harassment and its impact on New Zealand men. The Norton research reveals three quarters (72 percent) of New Zealand men under 30, and more than half of all New Zealand men (58 percent), have experienced some form of online harassment.
Common forms of online harassment range from abuse and insults (35 percent), trolling (27 percent), threats of violence (21 percent), and death threats (14 percent).
Mark Shaw, Norton Security Expert at Symantec, Pacific region, said the research uncovers the prevalence of harassment against men in the online world and reveals that online harassment is an everyday trial for specific members of our community.
“The Norton survey reveals there are some risk factors that make some men more vulnerable to online harassment than their other male counterparts. Men from minority religious beliefs are attacked because of their faith in 21 percent of cases; gay, bisexual and transgender men are targeted because of their sexual orientation in 23 percent of cases, compared with 8 percent of heterosexual men; and men with disabilities are attacked because of their physical or intellectual disabilities in 15 per cent of cases,” said Shaw.
“The Norton research shows that men are actively experiencing negative interactions and that they are vulnerable online. We’re hoping that New Zealand men recognise they have options, and can and should speak up about their online experiences, report serious harassment and threats when they occur, and take reasonable precautions while online.
“The survey findings indicate that New Zealand men take the Kiwi ‘she’ll be right’ attitude towards negative online experiences. Most men ignore (45 percent), block (37 percent) or unfriend (28 percent) perpetrators, but this approach doesn’t address the emotional impact these experiences may have on them. Ten percent of men indicated they felt powerless to do anything, 8 percent reported the activity to the police, and 8 percent sought legal advice and 4 percent threatened legal action,” said Shaw.
The impact of online harassment
Men may be attacked online for a range of reasons. In nearly half of cases no specific aspect of a person’s lifestyle or circumstances are singled out. When aspects are targeted, top issues include physical appearance and weight issues (14 percent and 10 percent), race and ethnic background and religion (13 percent and 10 percent), sexual orientation (11 percent), and learning difficulties and mental illness (six percent).
“I get it, I put myself out there for all to see, but that doesn’t make the things people say to me hurt any less,” said Kris Fox, a local online celebrity.
“If I told you half the things I hear on a daily basis you’d curl up and cry. It’s just sad how many people want to attack you for who you are, how you look, or the way you identify. The haters out there need to back up and realise they’re wrong, and get off their little power trips because real people are getting hurt. They also need to understand that threats of violence are never ok.”
In cases of harassment, feelings of anger are the most common response (36 percent). Depression and anxiety were also common at 14 and 13 percent. Less common were feelings of violation and abuse (10 percent), feeling helpless and vulnerable (9 percent), and suicidal feelings (7 percent).
Online crossed into the physical world in two interesting areas. About three percent of men resorted to physical violence in response to online harassment, and threats of violence and death threats prompted police involvement in 25 percent of cases.
"There are real consequences to online harassment which can have long lasting impacts, no matter your gender," said Martin Cocker, NetSafe Chief Executive Officer. "As online and offline activities become more connected than ever before it's important everyone adopts safe and secure online behaviours and understands their options if they are threatened. NetSafe has a variety of information and how-to guides at netsafe.org.nz
Online harassment experiences of New Zealand men and women
Earlier this year, Norton released the results of its Online Harassment: The New Zealand Woman’s Experience research and, when comparing the two, Norton found that the overall online experiences of men are not dissimilar to women. However, there were striking differences with online harassment:
· Gender-based online harassment is more common in females than males. 18 percent of New Zealand women are more likely to be attacked online because of their gender, compared with 8 percent of New Zealand males.
· Despite men acknowledging a broad range of behaviours which qualify as harassment – abuse, threats of physical and sexual violence as well as death – men (56 percent) are less likely than women (70 percent) to identify online harassment as a serious problem.
· New Zealand men and women (about 60 percent) generally agree that the problem is getting worse, and both believe that the problem has got worse since last year.
How to Tackle Online Harassment
For many forms of online harassment, both New Zealand men and women often unfriended, blocked or asked website owners to censor or ban offenders. In addition, many New Zealanders felt that authorities needed to take online harassment more seriously and that more laws were needed to deal with all forms of online harassment.
Privacy settings set on social media accounts were widely used (75 percent), but about a quarter of men (24 percent) are still unaware, don’t know how, or haven’t found the time to use them. The survey found private settings were favoured over public by 58 percent to 17 percent respectively. 20 percent of New Zealand men used their privacy settings to prevent people from bullying them while 35 percent used them to prevent people from stalking them.
Nearly 44 percent of New Zealand men had been approached by someone online with a false identity – yet 35 percent of New Zealand men accepted friend requests from strangers.
Some ways to prevent and address online harassment include:
· REVIEW your online presence. Check your security and privacy settings on all devices and regularly change passwords.
· RECOGNISE the problem if it happens and move quickly. Do not respond to the perpetrator; keep all records and evidence of the harassment by making a copy of the message, photo or video; and if you witness to online harassment, offer support to the person being targeted.
· REPORT online harassment to the relevant authorities immediately. If inappropriate content is displayed online, contact the website operators by phone or email requesting the content be removed or blocked. Reporting a crime can be done direct to the police or via The Orb website. If you, or someone you care for, need advice on how to deal with online harassment, please reach out to Netsafe for help on 09-362 0971.
An infographic highlighting the key survey findings can be downloaded here.