How a TikTok #MeToo development has empowered teenagers to talk out about their experiences

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A recent TikTok video that has been preferred by almost half a million individuals encourages ladies to document themselves placing one finger down for each time they’ve been despatched unsolicited dick pics, begged for nudes, catcalled, repeatedly requested out after already saying no, and compelled to do one thing sexual once they didn’t need to.

Similar movies about sexual assault posted by younger girls turned in style in 2020. The new video is aimed toward teenagers and focuses on sexual harassment. By calling consideration to how widespread sexual harassment is for teen ladies, the “Put a finger down: Sexual harassment edition” video has turn out to be the 2021 TikTok teen model of the #MeToo motion of 2017.

This development brings collectively two almost common realities within the lives of teenybopper ladies: the ever-present presence of social media and the every day barrage of sexual harassment. As a developmental psychologist, I feel this development showcases how teenagers have developed a contemporary method of dealing with a long-standing downside.

Teens on-line

Pre-COVID-19, a Pew Research Center ballot discovered nearly half of teenagers within the U.S. reported being online “almost constantly.” Over the previous 12 months as they had been caught at residence throughout remote schooling, teenagers relied on social media much more to cope with the forced social isolation.

Lockdowns and distant studying are especially painful for teens, as a result of they’re on the developmental stage when the necessity to join with friends is at an all-time excessive.

At the identical time that teenagers are spending more hours of their day on social media, the content material of what’s getting posted has turn out to be more and more targeted on social issues and “real-life” challenges and worries.

Epidemic of teenybopper sexual harassment

It solely is smart then {that a} in style submit on social media addresses one of many largest sources of stress in teen ladies’ lives: sexual harassment. Research with center faculty and highschool ladies has proven that in fifth grade one out of four adolescents have experienced sexual harassment within the type of sexual feedback, jokes, gestures or appears. By eighth grade it’s one in two. My colleagues and I’ve discovered that 90% of girls have experienced sexual harassment at least once by the tip of highschool.

It happens so generally, and in public areas like hallways and cafeterias, that by center faculty nearly all college students (96%) have witnessed sexual harassment happening at school. If it isn’t within the faculty constructing itself, it’s on their telephones: four out of five teen girls have had a minimum of one good friend who has been requested by a boy to ship a “sexy or naked” image.

These sexual harassment experiences don’t go away ladies unscathed. Girls describe sexual harassment as making them feel “dirty – like a piece of trash,” “terrible,” “scared,” “angry and upset” and “like a second-class citizen.” Seventy-six % of women report feeling unsafe as a result of they’re ladies a minimum of now and again.

The extra sexual harassment ladies expertise, the extra possible they’re to really feel emotional distress, melancholy and embarrassment, have lowered self-esteem, endure from substance abuse and have suicidal ideas. Their attitudes about their our bodies become more negative, with many ladies not liking their very own our bodies and beginning to have the sorts of eating behaviors that can lead to eating disorders. And the extra sexual harassment ladies expertise, the extra possible they’re to suffer in school, be absent more often and disengage from academics.

Coping in isolation

Yet, regardless of the harm it’s inflicting, ladies not often speak about their experiences. Even although they report feeling scared, indignant, helpless and embarrassed, they not often report the harassment to lecturers or mother and father and barely inform the harassers to cease – largely due to worries concerning the social penalties.

More than 60% of teenybopper ladies fear about retaliation, “that the other person would try to get back at” them in the event that they confronted or reported the harasser. More than half of women fear that individuals wouldn’t like them in the event that they stated one thing, or fear that individuals will suppose they’re “trying to cause trouble” or “just being emotional.” Half suppose they received’t be believed.

So, as an alternative of claiming one thing, greater than 60% of teenybopper ladies say they attempt to “forget about” or “ignore” the harassment, chalking it as much as “just part of life” as a woman. The downside with making an attempt to disregard sexual harassment is that it doesn’t work. Decades of analysis on the most effective ways to cope with stressful events exhibits that searching for social help and confronting the supply of the stress are rather more efficient coping methods than making an attempt to downplay or ignore the issue.

Virtual – however helpful – connection

So, whereas the most recent social media hashtag fad may appear trivial, speaking about sexual harassment experiences in a TikTok video is probably going profoundly helpful. Teens use social media to attach with others. Research has proven that, though passively scrolling by others’ social media feeds can lead individuals to negatively evaluate themselves with others, which may contribute to feeling envious of others’ seemingly higher lives, actively utilizing social media – by posting their very own ideas – can increase a person’s sense of social connections.

Social connection, in flip, results in better psychological well-being. This social media impact appears very true for ladies: In research through which ladies used social media to truthfully speak about themselves, they perceived better social help, and their well-being and positive feelings got a boost.

This sense of sincere social connection is especially necessary for teenagers who’ve been sexually harassed. Our analysis has proven that teen ladies usually tend to arise for themselves and confront perpetrators of sexual harassment once they believe their peers support them. If sincere disclosures on social media about their experiences assist teen ladies really feel related with others, they could feel empowered to say something in real life, too.

Putting a highlight on sexual harassment

Beyond serving to the ladies who make the movies, this latest social media development possible additionally advantages the individuals watching the movies. The 2017 #MeToo motion made more than half of teen girls really feel that they may inform somebody about what occurred to them. It helped them really feel much less alone.

It additionally helps label these pervasive on a regular basis behaviors as problematic. It is sweet for ladies to acknowledge this doesn’t should be only a “part of life.”

It can also be good for boys to see that ladies usually are not flattered by these behaviors. Our analysis exhibits boys sexually harass ladies largely because their friends do it and since it becomes the norm. They usually suppose that is how boys are imagined to express romantic interest. Boys are not often taught what sexual harassment is, they usually usually don’t notice how upsetting it’s to ladies.

Maybe these 45-second movies, as an alternative of being only a fad, may be the general public service announcement all teenagers want.

[ Follow @TheConversation on TikTok. ]

The Conversation

This article by Christia Spears Brown, Professor of Psychology, University of Kentucky, is republished from The Conversation below a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.



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