Friday, February 22, 2008

Myths About Online Predators

A research study that debunks common stereotypes about online predators was published this month by the American Psychological Association. The study was done by researchers at the University of New Hampshire and is based on three surveys conducted with internet users ages 10-17 and with interviews of local, federal and state law enforcement officials. The results of this study discredit the popular notion that internet predators pose as children to lure other young children into meeting them. In fact, the study shows that most internet predators target teenagers who are socially and emotionally vulnerable. They groom their victims by developing their trust, showing empathy and giving them a sense that their relationship is romantic in nature. Researchers add that the youth who are most vulnerable to online predators have history of sexual and physical abuse, family problems, and tend to take more risks on and offline than other teens. One interesting finding in the journal article was that 99% of the victims of internet initiated sex crimes were aged 13 to 17. In fact, the study found that the younger the child, the less likely they were to take risks involving privacy and contact with unknown people. Another finding was that teens often talk with people they do not know online but are not necessarily at risk for unwanted solicitations or encounters. The teens that send personal information such as age, address, telephone number and talk to unknown people about sex are most likely to receive aggressive sexual solicitations. Some other key findings of the study are:
  • The use of Social Networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook do not increase the risk of being victimized by online predators. According to the study, communication with online predators is more likely to happen in chatrooms and through instant messages.
  • Internet offenders tended to be teenagers in only 5% of the crimes studied by researchers.
  • Nearly 75% of victims who met offenders face-to-face did so more than once.
  • Online sex offenders are seldom violent, and cases involving stalking or abduction are very rare.
  • Youth who engaged in four or more risky online behaviors were much more likely to report receiving online sexual solicitations. The online risky behaviors included maintaining buddy lists that included strangers, discussing sex online with people they did not know in person and being rude or nasty online.
The entire published study can be read here.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Thanks for passing along this information. There are so many myths out there about Internet safety.

I recently found these videos and thought they were very good for educators to watch: