The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

Online Predation An Exaggerated Problem

Posted by invizweb on November 4, 2008

By Larry Magid for CBS News

CBS Tech Analyst Breaks Down The Stats; Drugs And Alcohol A Much Bigger Risk

CBS) A survey of 1,000 moms of teenagers commissioned by McAfee and conducted by Harris Interactive reached the surprising conclusion that “about two-thirds of mothers of teens in the United States are just as, or more, concerned about their teenagers’ online safety, such as from threatening emails or solicitation by online sexual predators, as they are about drunk driving (62 per cent) and experimenting with drugs (65 per cent).”

That might be how moms feel, but it’s not reflective of the real world. While moms have good reason to be concerned about how their teens use the Internet, online dangers pale compared to the risks of drunk driving. In 2007, 6,552 people were killed in auto accidents involving young drivers (16-20), according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. In 2006, nearly a fifth of the 7,643 15- to 20-year-old drivers involved in fatal traffic crashes had a blood had a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.

Perception of Internet danger has been heightened thanks to the TV show “To Catch a Predator” and inaccurate reports stating that “one in five children have been sexually solicited by a predator.” That statistic is a misquote from a 2000 study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center. The data (which, based on a 2005 follow-up study, was revised to one in seven) is based on a survey that asked teens if they had in the last year received an unwanted sexual solicitation.

But many – possibly most – of those solicitations were from other teens, not from adult predators. What’s more, most recipients didn’t view them as serious or threatening. “Almost all youth handled the solicitations easily and effectively” and “extremely few youth (two out of 1,500 interviewed) were actually sexually victimized by someone they met online,” reported the authors of the study.

Other studies have shown that “the stereotype of the Internet child molester who uses trickery and violence to assault children is largely inaccurate” (Wolak, Finkelhor & Mitchell, 2004). In a survey of law enforcement investigators of Internet sex crimes, it was reported that only 5 percent of offenders pretended to be teens when trying to meet potential victims online.

Read more.

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