Four in every ten adult users of the Internet have experienced some form of harassment while on the web, while nearly three-quarters say they have seen others suffer from antisocial online behavior ranging from name calling to stalking and threats of violence, a study released Wednesday suggests .
In its first-ever survey about online harassment, the Pew Research Center polled more than 2,800 people from across the country about their online experiences. Conducted in May and June of this year, interviewers found that 40 percent of respondents said they had personally experienced online harassment, though the severity often varied. And 73 percent said they’d seen it happen to another person.
Of those who said they had been harassed online, 27 percent reported being called offensive names and 22 percent had another user try to embarrass them on purpose. Perhaps of more concern for those being targeted, 8 percent said they had been physically threatened, a similar number of people had been stalked, and 6 percent said they had been sexually harassed. Around one in every 14 Internet users said they had suffered abuse “for a sustained period.”
Overall, the study showed that Internet harassment came in “two distinct but overlapping categories.” One type, which it considered less severe, included name-calling or embarrassment.
“It is a layer of annoyance so common that those who see or experience it say they often ignore it,” the report said.
The other, while less common, was more insidious: physical threats, stalking, sexual harassment or harassment that continued over a long period of time.
That more severe type of harassment was more likely to be experienced by young women between the ages of 18 and 24, the report said. For example, 26 percent of women aged 18 to 24 reported that they’d been stalked online, and 25 percent of them had been sexually harassed online.
Men, on the other hand, were more likely than women to encounter harassment such as name-calling, embarrassment and physical threats, the study said.
Overall, young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 were more likely to be harassed online than any other age group, with 65 percent of them reporting that it had happened to them in some form.
In terms of who was doing the harassing, 38 percent of those who responded to the Pew survey said a stranger was responsible, and 26 percent said they “didn’t know the real identity” of the perpetrator.
In regards to where the online harassment was taking place, 66 percent said the most recent incident was on a social networking site or app, while 22 percent said it took place in the comments section of a website.
“Women and young adults were more likely than others to experience harassment on social media,” the study said. “Men — and young men in particular — were more likely to report online gaming as the most recent site of their harassment.”