Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fears of Internet predators unfounded, study finds


WASHINGTON — A lot of parental worries about Internet sex predators are unjustified, according to new research by a leading center that studies crimes against children.

Perhaps this should say "Media FUD" instead of "parental worries"?  I'm hopeful that this is the first step in the end of this particular phase of media fear-mongering; unfortunately this will like be ignored.

The study comes out with a set of information that have individually been reported/suspected for years, but as far as I'm aware, were never performed as a formal study.

In this case, their are 3 studies:

  1. 3,000 children aged 10 thru 17, interviewed first in 2000, then again in 2005
  2. 3,000 children aged 10 thru 17, interviewed first in 2000, then again in 2005 (2 of the same study!)
  3. 612 Interviews with a investigators from a "nationally representative" sample of agencies in the Unites States.

The conclusions, published in American Psychologist (the journal of the American Psychological Association), in a paper titled "Online 'Predators' and Their Victims", by Janis Wolak  & co-researchers, were as follows:

  • Sex assaults on teens fell 52 percent from 1993 to 2005, according to the Justice Department's National Crime Victimization Survey, the best measure of U.S. crime trends
  • Internet predators don't hit on the prepubescent children whom pedophiles target. They target adolescents, who have more access to computers, more privacy and more interest in sex and romance, Wolak's team determined from interviews with investigators.
  • Most Internet-linked offenses are essentially statutory rape: nonforcible sex crimes against minors too young to consent to sexual relationships with adults.
  • Most victims meet online offenders face-to-face and go to those meetings expecting to engage in sex. Nearly three-quarters have sex with partners they met on the Internet more than once.
  • Only 5 percent of predators posed online as other teens, according to the survey of investigators.
  • Usually their targets are adolescent girls or adolescent boys of uncertain sexual orientation, according to Wolak. Youths with histories of sexual abuse, sexual orientation concerns and patterns of off- and online risk-taking are especially at risk.

Here's hoping we can get more facts -- I'd settle for well-supported theories! -- in the near future, instead of more fear mongering from the media.