the cornerstone belief that youth put themselves at risk by sharing their personal information (name, school etc.) on line is wrong
other related beliefs about internet pedophiles lying about their ages, identities and motives, tricking kids into disclosing personal information and then stalking, abducting and raping those children also turn out to be vastly exaggerated
what is the reality?
- there are almost no victims under the age of 13
- there is very little violence, abduction or deception involved in online sexual predatory behaviour
- the offenders lure teens after weeks of conversation with them, they play on teens desire for romance, adventure, sexual information / understanding and they lure them to encounters that the teens know are sexual in nature, with people who are considerably older than themselves
So, to prevent these crimes is going to be a lot more awkward, messy and complicated than something as bland as telling teens not to publish their personal information on line
Rather than blaming the internet we are going to have to dig deeper into the real issues of relationships, parenting and social pressures that lead to teens putting themselves at risk. eg. school is boring, how do I get alcohol when I am underage (form a connection with an older person), workaholic parents, no physical places for teens to hangout and have fun, issues like that. It's a complex social issue not a simple issue with simple technological solutions.
just the facts about online youth victimisation (pdf)
download the video or audio of the same thing
Update: (June 3, 2007)
Targeting the Right Online Behaviors
Michele L. Ybarra, MPH, PhD; Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD; David Finkelhor, PhD; Janis Wolak, JD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161:138-145.
Objective To examine whether sharing personal information and talking with strangers online or other behaviors are associated with the greatest odds for online interpersonal victimization
Conclusions Talking with people known only online ("strangers") under some conditions is related to online interpersonal victimization, but sharing personal information is not. Engaging in a pattern of different kinds of online risky behaviors is more influential in explaining victimization than many specific behaviors alone. Pediatricians should help parents assess their child's online behaviors globally in addition to focusing on specific types of behaviors
Online Victimisation of Youth: 5 Years Later (pdf)
3. Focus on adolescent desires for love, romance, and companionship.
In addressing the teens who are vulnerable to sexual solicitations, moreover, it is not sufficient to simply emphasize the dangers of assault, abduction, and rape. Internet exploiters know many teens are susceptible to romantic fantasies, illusions of love, and desires for companionship. Unfortunately exploiters also know how to take advantage of this susceptibility when they form close online relationships with youth (Wolak, et al., 2004). Prevention messages about sexual solicitation need to address this vulnerability. Such messages need to remind teens about how adults who use the Internet to meet and form sexual relationships with young teens are often committing crimes and likely to get themselves and their partners in serious trouble. Youth need to understand how some adults “groom” youth to allay anxieties and encourage sexual activity. Moreover youth need to hear about how relationships between teens and adults they meet online are doomed to failure and disappointment if not worse, and, despite what teens may be imagining, are usually more about sex than enduring love