Girlguiding UK demands urgent action from government to address girls' happiness after latest Girls' Attitude Survey results
There has been a 'dramatic decline' in girls' happiness with the numbers feeling sad, anxious or worried now at an all time high, according to new research
Harassment online, sexist comments, hateful messages, bullying, loneliness, anxiety and the pressures of the internet are all among the issues raised by youngsters in Girlguiding UK's latest annual survey.
Among the revelations in the Girls' Attitudes Survey was an admission from almost half of all girls, aged between seven and 10, that they have experienced some element of 'online harm' in the last year. This included hateful messages, bullying, cyberstalking and misinformation.
Over a quarter, aged between 11 and 21, also said they had received unwanted sexual images with a further 14% feeling pressure to share such pictures.
The problems raised, says the organisation, confirms that the true happiness of girls and young women is continuing to decline dramatically more than a decade since annual research by the charity into the issues impacting their lives first began.
Girlguiding UK is now insisting the government takes urgent action to reverse this downward trend through better support for girls' wellbeing, education and wider opportunities.
Those behind the work admit that the latest feedback has no doubt been accelerated and intensified by the pandemic, but not all of the issues raised in this year's research are connected solely to the emergence of Covid-19 and subsequent changes to people's everyday lives.
Girlguiding chief executive Angela Salt, OBE, said young women today face 'relentless' pressures.
She explained: "The pandemic has had a significant impact on all aspects of girls’ and young women’s lives, both exacerbating existing pressures and adding new worries.
"Now more than ever Girlguiding has an invaluable role to play in continuing to support girls’ wellbeing, and we’re proud to be able to offer a space where girls can be themselves, have fun and do the things they’ve missed out on this year - all whilst developing essential skills for their future, helping to build resilience and confidence to navigate this difficult time and the relentless pressures they face.”
More than 2,000 girls and young women of all ages were spoken to as part of efforts to gather results on everything from the issues they face to the things they care about. The flagship research project, now in its 13th year, aims to shine a light on the lives of girls and young women including everything from their mental health to their aspirations.
Almost half of all girls who took part admitted to insecurities and low self esteem about their appearance - said to be driven by unrealistic and unattainable images of perfection in online adverts and social media that they are 'unavoidably' seeing.
Air brushed and filtered pictures alongside weight-loss or appearance improving adverts were all among the factors raised by those experiencing feelings of self-consciousness.
As a result of the research, Girlguiding is also asking for more to be done to protect children from adverts on social media related to appearance enhancing products and to ensure images on social media and online adverts that have been digitally altered have been clearly labelled as such.
To read the full Girlguiding report click here
For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time or click here to visit the website.