A new study confirms what many Internet users know all too well: Harassment is a common part of online life.
The first-of-its-kind report by the Pew Research Center found that nearly three-quarters of American adults who use the Internet have witnessed online harassment. Forty percent have experienced it themselves.
The types of harassment Pew asked about range from name calling to physical threats, sexual harassment and stalking. Half of those who were harassed said they didn’t know the person who had most recently attacked them.
Young adults — ages 18 to 29 — were the most likely age group to see and undergo online harassment. Women ages 18 to 24 were disproportionately the victims of stalking and sexual harassment, according to the survey.
Among other key findings:
▪ Men were more likely to be called offensive names than women. Of all Internet users (89 percent of the U.S. population), 32 percent of men and 22 percent of women were called names. Men were also more likely to be physically threatened.
▪ People who have more information available about them online, and those who work in the tech industry and promote themselves online, were also more likely to be harassed on the Internet.
▪ Thirty-eight percent of people who were harassed online said a stranger was behind the threats.
▪ Two-thirds of those who were harassed said the most recent incident took place on a social networking site or app, and 22 percent saw it happen in the comments section of a website. Sixteen percent, meanwhile, said it happened in online gaming.
▪ Just 5 percent of those who were harassed reported the incident to law enforcement, but nearly half confronted the person online. Forty-four percent said they unfriended or blocked the person.
▪ Not everyone said the online harassment hurt. Though 14 percent of people found their most recent incident “extremely upsetting,” 22 percent said it was “not at all upsetting.” The rest of the people surveyed had reactions in between.
The telephone and online survey was conducted between May 30 and June 30 among 3,217 respondents.