Afraid to let your teen and pre-teen children online for fear the boogeyman might reach through the screen and take them away? Understandable, given the prominence of social networking sites, which has made it easier than ever for child predators to target new prey. But lest you go in a panic, a long awaited report form the Internet Safety Technical Task Force says children and teens aren't as vulnerable to sexual predation as commonly feared.
The task force, which was formed as a result of a joint agreement between MySpace and 49 state attorneys general, concludes that "actual threats that youth may face appear to be different than the threats most people imagine" and that "the image presented by the media of an older male deceiving and preying on a young child does not paint an accurate picture of the nature of the majority of sexual solicitations and internet-initiated offline encounters."
The task force didn't dismiss the risk from predators completely, but noted the overwhelming majority of youth aren't in danger of being harmed by an adult predator they meet online. Instead, "youth identify most sexual solicitors as being other adolescents," the report says.
While the task force may have downplayed the threat of adult sexual predators, it did find that "bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most salient threats that minors face, both online and offline." However, with a clear definition of bullying and harassment for researchers to agree on, quantifying the risk is difficult, but most agree it's still clearly higher than the risk of being harmed by a predator.
Get the full scoop here , then post your reactions below.
Image Credit: Flickr Extra Ketchup