On-line Sexual Predators

Myth — Children face a large risk of being approached by sexual predators when they are on-line.

One of the biggest worries of parents is that if their children use the Internet they will be approached by sexual predators. In the early days of the Internet, when anonymous chat rooms were more popular, this claim may have been true. But in today’s world, with children using social networking sites with closed networks of “friends,” the reality is sexual predators are a much lower risk than parents think. The fact is that children usually know most of their “friends” from the school yard.

In 2008, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University put out a report about the risks children face online. Below are some of their findings:

  • The risks that children face on-line are not that much different than the ones they face off-line.
  • Bullying is the most frequent threat that kids face, online and offline. So the thing us parents should worry about is cyber bullying, NOT sexual predators.
  • Although sexual predators can approach children on-line, it is the children who show risky behavioral choices offline that are at the most risk. In other words, if your child is acting inappropriately sexual on the school yard, chances are they may be doing it on-line. Your child’s behavior in the real world is a better predictor of their risk than media use.
  • Unwanted exposure to pornography is rare. In other words, if your older teenage boy is probably looking for those pornographic sites, he didn’t stumble on it by accident.

So the good news is you can breathe easier, the fact is your child is most likely safe from sexual solicitation. For more information about the report, click here.

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