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New UNESCO report warns social media affects girls’ well-being and learning

The new report sheds light on the challenges and risks young girls face in digital learning environments and stresses the negative impact of social media on girls’ wellbeing and education.
Image credit: UNESCO GEM Report
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As the EU threatens TikTok lite with ban and a potential TikTok ban could soon speed through Senate in the Unites States, the 2024 GEM Gender Report warns against use of social media in educational settings to protect girls’ wellbeing and learning.

Launched on International Girls in Information and Communications Technology Day and entitled “Technology on her terms”, the new report by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report assesses the progress made towards achieving gender parity across all levels of education.

Whilst the report tells a positive story at the global level for girls’ access and education attainment over the past two decades, examples of stubborn exclusion remain. The report also sheds light on the challenges and risks young girls face in digital learning environments and stresses the negative impact of social media on girls’ wellbeing and education.

Some key findings of the report include:

      • Girls’ social media usage: By age 15, 43% of girls in the United Kingdom spend one to three hours daily on social media compared to 31% of boys.
      • Girls’ mental health under strain: Adolescent girls surveyed are twice as likely to report feeling lonely as boys and to suffer an eating disorder in their lives. Facebook-using pre-teenage girls, female secondary school students and female university students reported more body-related image concerns than non-users. Facebook’s own research found that 32% of teenage girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.
      • Girls suffer more from cyberbullying than boys: On average, across OECD countries with available data, 12% of 15-year-old girls reported being cyberbullied, compared to 8% of boys. Image-based sexual abuse is also on the rise, with a third of undergraduate female students in Canada reporting unwanted images or videos.
      • STEM gender gap which crystallizes in the technology workforce: Just released data by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) contained in the report shows that women make up only 35% of tertiary education STEM graduates globally, a share that has not changed in the past 10 years. Women also hold less than 25% of science, engineering, and ICT jobs

The report says :

Ensuring women participate on equal terms in shaping the world’s ongoing digital transformation will ensure that technology works for everyone and takes into consideration the needs of all humanity.

These findings underscore the urgent need for ethical considerations in the design of social media platforms and the promotion of positive digital environments conducive to girls’ learning and well-being.

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