Two New Studies on Internet Predators: One Says Chill, One Says PANIC!

Two new studies out this week on the perils of the Internet for young users.

Study number one [PDF] is a survey of the literature on Internet predation, done by the same folks at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School who released an impressive and controversial study last year, deflating fears about the dangers kids face online.

Clearly a little gun shy after the reception of their last study, the authors present their new work with extreme caution and many caveats. But their re-examination of past studies that have fueled scaremongering headlines turns up a similar conclusion from last year's paper: People are freaking out way out of proportion with the actual risk involved in teen online behavior. A smattering of conclusions:

* Youth receiving sexual solicitations declined somewhat between 2000 and 2006, from
19% in 2000 to 14% in 2006.

* The percentage of youth reporting dangerous offline contact as a result of online
encounters is low, and Internet-initiated sexual assaults are rare.

* The overall number of cases of sexual assault reported per year has steadily decreased
since 1992, suggesting that the total number of cases of sexual assault against youth has
not increased due to the Internet.

* The percentage of youth reporting solicitation and harassment on social network sites
(SNSs) is comparable to solicitation rates across all media. Social network sites do not
appear to promote sexual solicitation to a greater extent than other forms of Internet
communication.

* Most youth report ignoring unwanted online solicitations, with 64-75% reporting no
psychological harm or distress.

* The vast majority of cases of aggressive sexual solicitation and online grooming involve
adolescent youth (primarily 13-17), as opposed to pre-pubescent children. Aggressive or
distressing solicitations are generally concentrated in older adolescents (aged 14-17).

* Youth reporting online victimization or solicitation show similar risk factors as youth
who are vulnerable in offline contexts (experienced sexual or physical abuse, parental
conflict, substance use, low caregiver bonding, depression, sexual aggression, etc.)

But this kind of sober, systematic treatment of available information doesn't do much to stem the demand for online scare stories. Consider a press release out earlier this week for for study number two [PDF]:

A shocking new report released today called “The Secret Online Lives of Teens” is a revealing peak at just how much our kids risk when they interact online, and one expert believes it’s more than just a wake-up call.

[Of the 28 percent of kids age 13-17 who said they chatted with strangers]: 

   * 43 percent shared their first name
   * 24 percent shared their email address
   * 18 percent posted photos of themselves
   * 12 percent posted their cell phone number

Mary Kay Hoal, a concerned mom and global media expert who addressed her Internet safety issues by creating a social network exclusively for kids and teens – www.yoursphere.com - believes that this is more than just a wake-up call for parents and teens. “This study is Pearl Harbor in the war against Internet predators,” she said.

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  • ||

    This study is Pearl Harbor in the war against Internet predators

    WTF does that even mean? The pedophiles sank your battleship?

  • Zeb||

    That is exactly what I came here to ask. Someone should compile a list of worst published metaphors for each year.

  • Astrid||

    Maybe it's that we need to nuke the Internet?

  • Ska||

    It means I can sit in the bath tub while Ms. Hoal blows the fuck out of me.

    My apologies to the US Navy.

  • Some Guy||

    Mary Kay Hoal, a concerned mom and global media expert who addressed her Internet safety issues by creating a social network exclusively for kids and teenswww.yoursphere.com - believes that this is more than just a wake-up call for parents and teens. “This study is Pearl Harbor in the war against Internet predators,” she said.

    I think what she means is that she was lining up all the planes in tight groups on the airfield to prevent sabotage.

  • ||

    There's a Battleship reference in "The Bad Touch/Mammals" so there must be some connection to pedophilia.

  • ||

    There was too much innuendo with using a 911 reference, i guess.

  • ||

    Caption Contest!

    (whispering)

    "Turn Around Turn Around Turn Around...Anytime..."

  • ||

    "Mary Kay Hoal"

    You know, that would be a great screen name for a prostitute making appointments through the net.

  • Chris Hansen||

    I'm watching all of you.

  • .||

    While masturbating, right? Right, Chris?

  • ||

    * 43 percent shared their first name
    * 24 percent shared their email address
    * 18 percent posted photos of themselves
    * 12 percent posted their cell phone number

    Please excuse me if I don't wet my pants over this.

  • The Other Kevin||

    Exactly. Did they list all the harm that was done as a result? My guess is, not too much.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Exactly. Did they list all the harm that was done as a result? My guess is, not too much.


    Sharing a cell phone number (if it is not a disposable cell phone) is not such a good idea.

  • Zeb||

    You can't get fucked over the phone, on the internet or through a photo. How dumb do they think kids are? I mean, kids are pretty dumb, but they know that there are lots of creepy weirdos on the internet and how to ignore people if they don't like what they are saying.

  • ||

    There's creepy weirdos allegedly teaching them at school.

  • Hugh Akston||

    And representing them in Congress.

  • ||

    Ok ok, so we can't keep kids from growing up and voting for the creepy weirdos...but at least they aren't getting raped.

  • ||

    And the last thing some teen ager wants to do is talk to some creepy old man. Seriously, what planet do these people live on? Some 14 year old girl or boy is out on the internet looking to meet another teenager. Not some guy on a list somewhere.

  • Astrid||

    Have you tried claiming you're a two hundred year old vampire? I hear that's in.

  • Astrid||

    And this post makes more under the comments about "online grooming." Stupid nesting threads.

  • ||

    maybe that would work. I don't have a teenager. but I was once one. Maybe the cougars could pick up horney teenage guys. But from my experience no old man is picking up some young girl.

  • Astrid||

    Yeah, you've got a point, the odds are higher for cougar/teenage boy pairings.

  • ||

    Some 14 year old girl or boy is out on the internet looking to meet another teenager. Not some guy on a list somewhere.

    It's hard to tell who's a 14 year old and who's a 40 year old on the internet. For all you guys know, I could be a precocious 6 year old girl rather than the respected and established pillar of the community that I claim to be.

  • ||

    The first name and email address I don't see being a problem. The phone number could become very annoying, but I don't see it as a tool for predation.

    The photo could be a potential tool for predation problem. If they revealed their home address that could be a VERY bad thing, but the study doesn't mention that. It depends on how judicious the kids were about posting different sorts of information together. Since we're talking about 13-17 year olds, the answer is probably not at all.

  • ¢||

    Youth receiving sexual solicitations declined somewhat between 2000 and 2006, from
    19% in 2000 to 14% in 2006.

    Kids are getting fatter.

  • Jordan||

    Haha. Well done, sir.

  • Hugh Akston||

    That's a threadwinner.

  • Astrid||

    I agree.

  • ||

    [Of the 28 percent of kids age 13-17 who said they chatted with strangers]:

    * 43 percent shared their first name
    * 24 percent shared their email address
    * 18 percent posted photos of themselves
    * 12 percent posted their cell phone number

    OH NOES! Think of the... Uh yeah, none of that can be used to molest a child.

    Hey Kids. When hooking up with people you only know from on-line for the first time, be sure to do it in a public place.

    That oughtta do it.

  • ||

    24 percent shared their email address

    ONLY 24%? Shit. I would have expected 99.24%.

  • Ted S.||

    I'd have guessed they gave people their gmail addresses.

  • Coeus||

    The vast majority of cases of aggressive sexual solicitation and online grooming involve
    adolescent youth (primarily 13-17),

    Is this some kind of new fetish that I don't know about?

  • ||

    Sounds like a case for those intrepid investigators Warty and Sugar Free.

  • ||

    I love the "online grooming'. Yeah. I am sure some old guy is going to have such a great shot chatting up young girls. They are just going to be so into him.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Online grooming? Sounds like comments about what someone should do to their hair, I guess.

  • Coeus||

    It happens. But when it occurs with older teens (16+) I think the term and associated stigma is mostly the result of jealously. Most women see banging an older guy as a right of passage.

  • zoltan||

    Most women see banging an older guy as a right of passage.

    [Citation needed]

    Maybe the ugly or greedy women you know want to bang an older guy but I don't personally know any women my age (early 20's) who like older guys. Guess I'm just not sophisticated enough. Or maybe I just don't want that Prada purse enough.

  • ||

    Sadly, I have to agree with zoltan here. Barely legal young women don't appreciate their elders as much as they should, and don't interpret manboobs and baldness correctly as signs of sexual potency.

  • zoltan||

    LOL, Tulpa.

  • Coeus||

    women my age (early 20's)

    [reading comprehension needed]

    I said late teens. There's a good bit of difference between a 16 year old and a 24 year old.

    I don't really know any teens now, so maybe it's changed, but there were guys in their thirties at almost every party I went to while in high school. And they were always knee deep in illegal (or barely legal) tail.

  • TallDave||

    It's time to panichill.

  • ||

    Get to the choppa!

  • chatroulette||

    I'm doing my best to enlarge those numbers.

  • The Art-P.O.G.||

    Well done.

  • The Thinking Man's NASCAR||

    "a revealing peak"

    I'm picturing the Matterhorn done up like a harlot.

  • PermaLurker||

    Oh puhleeze. Why doesn't anyone study the truly dangerous congregations of sexual predators: family reunions. I take the online pedobear any day over the Creepy
    Uncle.

  • ||

    family reunions

    People actually have those? I thought they were just a sitcom premise.

  • ||

    They're more common in the South, presumably because in Southern culture it's seen as an opportunity to get laid.

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