"Online abuse is driving girls to quit social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with nearly 60% experiencing harassment, a global study showed on Sunday.
One in five girls and young women has abandoned or cut down on using a social media platform after being targeted, with some saying harassment started when they were as young as eight, the survey by girls' rights group Plan International showed.
'Girls are being silenced by a toxic level of harassment,' said the organisation's chief executive, Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen.
Attacks were most common on Facebook, where 39% of girls polled said they had been harassed, followed by Instagram (23%), WhatsApp (14%), Snapchat (10%), Twitter (9%) and TikTok (6%).
The charity, which will share the report with social media companies and lawmakers around the world, said the abuse was suppressing girls' voices at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was increasing the importance of communicating online.
It called on social media companies to take urgent action to address the issue and urged governments to pass laws to deal with online harassment.
The study found reporting tools were ineffective in stopping the abuse, which included explicit messages, pornographic photos and cyberstalking.
Nearly half of girls targeted had been threatened with physical or sexual violence, according to the poll. Many said the abuse took a mental toll, and a quarter felt physically unsafe.
'It is time for this to stop. Girls should not have to put up with behaviour online which would be criminal on the streets,' the report said."