One in 20 US youths aged 10-17 have been "highly distressed" by an online sexual solicitation, according to a report published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The report, the first scientific study into the risk posed to children by online predators, surveyed 1500 youths aged 10-17 and was conducted by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Some 19 per cent of those surveyed reported that they had been asked to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give personal sexual information while using the internet. One quarter of those who had been approached, or 4.8 per cent of those surveyed, reported the experience as leaving them extremely upset or afraid.
The risk of distress was more common among younger users, those who received aggressive solicitations (the solicitor attempted or made offline contact) or who were solicited on a computer away from their home
Neither parental oversight of their children nor filtering and blocking technology had much impact on whether children were approached, the report said.
However, the report concluded that, although the issue was cause for concern, parents should not stop children using the internet.
It suggested "adding internet solicitation to the list of childhood perils about which [authorities] should be knowledgeable and able to provide counsel to families. At the same time, the concerns are not so alarming that they should, by themselves, encourage parents to bar children from accessing the internet."
A brief summary of the report can be read here.
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