Catcalling, also known as harassment on the street, has been around for a long time and can happen anytime and anywhere. The penetration of the Internet, the large number of people using smartphones make online catcalling behavior increase significantly. Especially when it comes to social distancing, everyone is at home and anonymous behind their computers’ screens.
So what is Catcalling? How does catcalling transfer from the physical to the virtual? Why is your child especially vulnerable to online harassment by catcalling?
What is Catcalling?
Catcalling or (sexual) harassment on street is something that almost all women of all ages experience when they are harassed by a stranger making sexually explicit comments towards them. Whether it’s walking to class in the morning or going for a walk at night with friends, getting catcalling can happen anytime and anywhere.
Comments can vary and tend to depend on the creativity and language-used ability of the catcalling. However, sadly, with the strong development of the Internet, catcalling has taken on many new forms of expression, and the concept of online catcalling has become more and more uncomfortable just like street harassment and increasingly targeted towards younger teenagers.
What are the reasons for the catcalling phenomenon?
As mentioned, catcalling is the act of a person (usually a man) making sexually harassing words to women they meet on the street, this behavior has been around for a long time, and continues to this day.
Some of the main reasons for this behavior:
Lack of awareness
Maybe men have lived and grown up with the problem of catcalling surrounding them, they see this behavior often on the street, in movies, and think it is completely normal and socially acceptable behavior. That’s why some men never realize that catcalling is a misbehavior and insulting women, instead, they actually think they are complimenting women, in a more humorous way.
Pervasive toxic masculinism
Some men grow up in traditional cultural norms about how men should behave. For example, they were raised to believe that they shouldn’t express their emotions freely, or that crying is a sign of weakness and men should always be strong. These beliefs and behaviors are harmful to both men and women.
Some men think they know catcalling hurts women, but they catcall to make them feel like they have power over them.
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Pressure from friends
Pressure from friends or Peer pressure is when people are influenced by people in the same social group (age, school, etc.). From here they will have to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors to fit the group’s standards. This pressure is also seen as peer influence on your child, specifically when the child has to do something he/she doesn’t like but has to do because he/she wants to be accepted and appreciated by his/her peers.
Peer pressure has both positive and negative sides. On the negative side, your child may engage in behaviors like trying drugs, watching porn, taking and sharing sensitive photos/videos of herself, etc.
In the case of catcalling, peer pressure applies to men of all ages, but especially to young adults aged 14-20, who face peer pressure the most. They really want to prove themselves to their friends and this desire forces them to do “cool” and “brave” things by catcalling or harassing girls/women on the street.
Freedom of speech is increasingly misunderstood
Freedom of speech is increasingly being used to justify sexual harassment/catcalling, both online and in real life. Some men assume they can say whatever they want, and men can express themselves. If they weren’t catcalling, women wouldn’t know how attractive men they are.
Online calling is increasing day by day
The penetration of the Internet, the large number of smartphone users make the act of online catcalling – harassment also increase significantly. With the help of social media, people have the opportunity to contact anyone in the world easily through email, SMS, Snapchat, and direct messaging on social networking sites.
And with the current situation, with the COVID pandemic, catcalling – sexual harassment is even worse. We think that when social distancing, there will be no more catcalling. But no, catcalling is appearing more and more online.
Things have moved from what usually happens in real life to the online experience. For many individuals, the online world has become their only reality. For others, have more free time and are therefore more likely to use the Internet as a tool for harassment.
Those who perform this behavior think that their actions are masked by the incognito mode behind the computer/phone screen, so they can easily harass anyone they want.
However, when looking at the issue of online catcalling, you should also keep in mind that not only are random strangers making harassing comments to your child, but it can also be the ones who your child know on social media.
So when your child uploads and shares pictures/videos of herself, or your child live streams, your child has a very high chance of becoming a victim of body-shaming, harassing comments from both acquaintances and strangers.
How to teach children to deal with online catcalling?
Whether it’s a comment on an Instagram photo or a direct message on Tinder, catcalling can be extremely upsetting for your child, and when overwhelmed by emotions, it can be difficult for your child to respond. Here are some helpful tips to help you teach your child how to deal with catcalling:
Take a picture of the proof and post it on social media
While ignoring and not allowing yourself to be swayed by the catcaller’s words may seem like the most logical thing to do, this allows the catcaller to shirk responsibility for their actions. When they are not criticized for their comments, the catcalling has more excuses to continue their harassment.
Whether the catcaller harasses your child in any way, from comments, text on images, videos to live streams, help your child take screenshots of his conversation with the catcaller. Then create a post with that proof and post it on social media where other users can see it.
This Internet safety tips for kids have 2 benefits. The first is to help others in your child’s network of friends and acquaintances (especially girls) be more aware of the seriousness of online catcalling. Secondly, your children’s friends and acquaintances will see the vulgarity of the catcalling and their username, thereby becoming cautious and recognizing the manifestations of this harassment earlier, thereby making timely decisions.
Reply and report
As CyberPurify mentioned, you may find it easier to simply advise your child to ignore the catcalling behavior. However, the comfort that catcallers feel behind their screens is what drives them to deliver more catcalls to more girls. The ease of anonymity also leads online catcallers to believe that their crude comments will have no consequences.
Teach your child how to respond to online catcalling in a concise, uncomplicated way. Your child can simply ask, “Would it be okay if someone talked to your mom or sister that way?”
At that time, the catcalling will completely change their mind. Since catcallers also don’t want to see their female relatives in a similar situation, they tend to stop all forms of online sexual harassment.
Since most social networking sites and apps have a report option, it is extremely helpful to report catcalling online after responding.
If the situation is still complicated when the catcalling continues to comment after your child has tried the steps outlined above, blocking is probably the best course of action. Because ultimately, your child doesn’t have control over what others say and do, but your child does have control over who can contact your child online, so don’t be afraid to seize that power if you need to – by blocking them.
Most social networking sites allow you to block users.
Ignoring the actions of online catcallers will only increase the disgusting actions of catcallers. Furthermore, the more victims of online catcalling choose to avoid the issue, the more cyber catcallers will not hold themselves accountable for such reprehensible behavior. When problems related to online catcalling arise, addressing the issue face-to-face will help reduce similar incidents in the future.
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