It’s natural for parents to worry about their children. And when it comes to social media, parents have been presented with some scary stories regarding online sexual predators. The dangers may not as be far-reaching, however, as the media would have parents believe according to a recent by the Crimes Against Children Research Center.
According to the report, online sexual solicitations (which include activities such as flirting, asking for a picture and invitations to meet in person) toward minors are down more than 50% since 2000. The report also shows that, contrary to popular belief, the main source of sexual solicitations come from young peers, not adult internet predators. It turns out that, when it comes to youth, a lot of sexually solicitous online activity is really no different from what kids encountered hanging out at the local shopping mall 20 years ago.
Some encouraging statistics
The study revealed several encouraging statistics regarding online sexual solicitation of minors:
- Only 5% of children reporting unwanted sexual solicitation online where under the age of 12
- While online sexual solicitation of minors has decreased, young people are spending more time online. 97% of youth reported using the internet at home in 2010 as opposed to 74% in 2000
- In 93% of cases the youth knew the sexual solicitation perpetrator in real life
- Only 13% of unwanted sexual solicitations occurred when the child was using a mobile device
The data shows that it’s rare for children to be victims of random sexual predators online, in spite of the fact that children are spending more time on the internet now than ever before. And while 74% of teenagers access the internet via mobile devices according to the Pew Research Center, it’s uncommon for sexual solicitations to occur via cell phone. In the end, parents, especially those of young children, should realize that there is a much greater danger of their child encountering inappropriate contact or abuse from people they interact with in real life than from strangers online. In fact, 60% of child sex abusers are known to the child (i.e. neighbors, babysitters and family friends), and 30% of them are family members, according to the American Psychological Association.
Relax, but Be Aware
Despite the positive nature of these trends, parents shouldn’t let their guard down completely. Children can still encounter sexual solicitation online, and it’s important to know that most children do not report these online sexual solicitations to either a parent or a school authority on their own. Girls are at a higher risk as well in that they make up two-thirds of the recipients of online sexual solicitation. More than half of the online sexual solicitations to minors come via social networking sites, while gaming, email, instant messaging and internet chat rooms field only a small percentage of online sexual solicitation to minors on an individual basis. So if parents should focus on a particular online activity, it should be their child’s interactions on social networking sites. Parents can utilize tools such as Net Nanny to monitor their child’s activity online and block inappropriate Web content.
Overall, though, young internet users are a savvy bunch. They are aware of the importance of maintaining their online privacy and are using social networking sites to stay connected with their real-life friends, not to meet total strangers. So if you’re a parent, relax a bit regarding your child’s online activity. Save your worry for more pressing problems like saving for your kid’s college tuition.
Featured image by Shirley Binn
via the New York Post