Psychology Today has a great article which nicely debunks the whole hysterical idea that children are in danger from sexual predators while online. It refers to the 278 page report by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force which looked at vast amounts of data about whether children were regularly solicited for sex online (as the hysteria would have us believe).
The task force, led by Harvard researchers, looked at reams of scientific data dealing with online sexual predation and found that children and teens were rarely propositioned for sex by adults who made contact via the Internet. In the handful of cases that have been documented-and highly publicized-the researchers found that the victims, almost always older teenagers, were usually willing participants already at risk for exploitation because of family problems, substance abuse, or mental health issues.
The report concluded that MySpace and Facebook “do not appear to have increased minors’ overall risk of sexual solicitation.” The report said the biggest risk to kids using social networks was bullying by other kids.
Imagine that. Real evidence to counter the tabloid panic. Not that it will make much difference to religious groups or politicians. Fear sells better than facts.
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Halfway through writing this post I found myself wondering if I hadn’t already blogged about this. Turns out I have, after a fashion. In February I wrote about the same report and how it found that kids aren’t necessarily interested in porn – and the majority of “teenagers” who were tended to be 17 year old boys.
To quote Psychology Today:
The Internet is still new, and kids use it more than adults, which makes many adults nervous that something nefarious must be going on. But according to the attorneys general report, next to nothing is.