Microsoft South Africa today shared the findings of the organisation’s latest Digital Civility Index (DCI). During its Women@Microsoft Digital Safety and Tech Savvy Parenting event, Microsoft facilitated discussions around how people can work together to promote safer, healthier, and more respectful online interactions for teenagers and adults alike.
The sixth annual global survey interviewed teens aged 13 to 17 and adults aged 18 to 74 about their exposure to 21 different internet risks and divided these into categories. These categories included behavioural, sexual, reputation, and personal/intrusive, as well as their online experiences (even during the pandemic) and how those encounters influenced their sense of online civility.
The global DCI score for this year is 65%, which is the best since the poll began in 2016. Despite perceptions of online civility deteriorating one year into the pandemic, with 30% of people of all ages and genders reporting that civility deteriorated during the health crisis, and Covid fatigue identified as the most likely explanation for people venting their frustrations online, this is a two percent improvement since 2020.
These overall gains were driven primarily by males: 90% of the year-on-year improvement seen was accounted for by men, with teenage boys experiencing significantly fewer risks.
The gender gap
Teenage girls and women said they were more vulnerable to internet dangers and suffered more severe effects as a result. Females faced nearly 60% (57%) of all dangers recorded in 2021, a record high, and were also more likely to have suffered consequences, fear, or suffering as a result of being treated uncivilly.
“Insights from the research indicate that more frequent use of social media and messaging apps could be driving the higher share of risk and making women more vulnerable online,” says Andréa Campbell, commercial attorney at Microsoft South Africa. For example, nearly 70% of women (69%) use social media multiple times per day, compared to 59 % of men. For teenagers, the figure is even higher: Compared to 62% of boys, 72% of teenage girls use social media many times a day.
As a result, half of all women – compared to 40% of men – acknowledged to being less trusting of other people online. “While the study indicates a gap between how males and females experience and view online civility, it is important to educate and remind digital citizens that everyone is at risk and that each one of us creates a ripple effect with every click we make online – be it positive or negative,” says Rianette Leibowitz, Cyber Wellness, Online Safety and Digital Parenting Expert, and Founder of SaveTNet Cyber Safety.
Collaborating to educate on safety
The examined people’s impressions of requirements to help build a safer online environment for all – and nearly nine out of ten respondents, across all genders and age groups, stated that better education on how to make the digital world safer is necessary. Three-quarters also believe that social media corporations should do a better job of policing damaging online speech.
“What these results show is that it is critical for multiple stakeholders to collaborate to build a safer internet together. Collaboratively we can create more positive impact and encourage people to become responsible digital citizens,” says Leibowitz.
“A key part of our approach is not only to partner and work with advocates, industry partners and governments worldwide to develop solutions and promote effective public policies that help protect people online – but also provide access to online safety resources and tools that empower people to make safe choices,” says Campbell.
Another part of this approach to promote digital civility is encouraging people to take the Digital Civility Challenge, which is made up of four ideals:
- Live the Golden Rule by acting with empathy, compassion and kindness in every interaction, and treating everyone you connect with online with dignity and respect
- Respect differences, honour diverse perspectives and, when disagreements surface, engage thoughtfully, avoiding name-calling and personal attacks
- Pause before replying to things you disagree with, and don’t post or send anything that could hurt someone else, damage a reputation or threaten someone’s safety
- Stand up for yourself and others by supporting those who are targets of online abuse or cruelty, reporting threatening activity and preserving evidence of inappropriate or unsafe behaviour
For additional advice and guidance on online safety issues, visit Microsoft’s resources page and follow Microsoft Safer Online via Facebook and Twitter.
Worldwide_Digital civility infographic 2021
*Photo Credit Julia M Cameron