girl holds phone

1 in 4 teens say friends sexually harass them online

About one in four youth say they have been pressured by friends online to talk about sex when they didn’t want to.

A new study of 439 middle- and high-school students aged 12 to 16 shows it’s not just strangers who target children over the internet.

“This is not to downplay the danger of pedophiles acting online, but it does draw attention to the potential threat of child sexual victimization by the people our kids are closest to, the people they spend the greatest amount of time with online,” says Thomas J. Holt, associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University.

[To protect kids, don’t keep them offline]

The study, published in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, shows that girls and kids with low self-control are more likely to be sexually harassed online. But researchers say they were most surprised by the finding that 24 percent of participants were sexually harassed over the internet.

Parental-filtering software or keeping the computer in an open space such as the family living room doesn’t seem to reduce the problem, Holt says.

“So it seems like this is not something that can be technologically solved, at least for the moment. Instead, it has to be something that’s resolved through engaged conversation between parent and child.”

Such conversations can be difficult, particularly when they deal with sex. “But parents need to have that talk with their kids about what they are doing online and what people are asking them to do online. That kind of open dialogue is one of the best things they can do to minimize the risk.”

Source: Michigan State University