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New facts about online predators May 8, 2009

Posted by Malene Charlotte Larsen in Internet Safety, Survey.
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I recently read an article from Switched reporting on a new study from University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. The study deals with data collected from an sample of American law enforcement agencies about crimes by online sex predators during two 12-month periods, in respectively 2000 and 2006.

Here are some of their conclusions based on the study:

  • Arrests of online predators in 2006 constituted about 1 percent of all arrests for sex crimes committed against children and youth.
  • Arrests of online predators increased between 2000 and 2006. Most arrests and the majority of the increase involved offenders who solicited undercover investigators, not actual youth.
  • The internet is not more dangerous than other environments that children and adolescents frequent.
  • Social networking sites are not necessarily dangerous environments (predators are more likely to use online chat rather than SNSs to initiate contact to possible victims).

Read more about the study and the measurements here.

Be aware that the numbers represented may not reflect the full number of crimes committed by online predators, as “many sex crimes against minors never come to the attention of law enforcement”. However, it is safe to say that children are still “most likely to be exploited by acquaintances and family members, rather than strangers on the Internet”, as pointed out in the article from Switched.

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Three kinds of online safety May 6, 2009

Posted by Malene Charlotte Larsen in Internet Safety, Talks, Youth.
3 comments

During the past few weeks I have been giving a couple of public talks at different conferences in Denmark, all focusing on youth and digital media. Even though my talks usually don’t include many perspectives on online safety and focus more on communicating my research results and giving a general introduction to how Danish youth use social network sites, I know that many of the participants (often teachers, social educators, parents, librarians etc.) are interested in knowing how to teach kids about safety issues.

In this regard I recently read an interesting post from the NetFamilyNews blog. Here, Anne Collier offers three perspectives on online safety and internet literacy:

  • Physical safety – the one we have focused on the most, freedom from physical harm by predators and bullies
  • Psychological safety – freedom from cruelty, flaming, and other forms of harassment and cyberbullying involving ex-friends, mean kids, bullies, colleagues, etc. […]
  • Reputational and legal safety – these can overlap with the psychological kind, where, for example, online defamation can harm someone’s reputation; they provide for freedom from restriction or repercussion as a result of online communication or production by one’s self or others […].

She argues that US kids “have practically tuned out the term online safety” because of a strong focus in US society on the first perspective. The term “can’t really help them deal with the complexities of their online/offline social lives, it’s in danger of becoming irrelevant to them”, she writes. I agree very much with Collier and her point is quite similar to what I was trying to argue in this article on Nettendenser in December. I think it is important to focus not only on the threats and risks (and thereby treating children and young people as victims) in order to get them to listen to advice on online safety.

Read the post from NetFamilyNews here (which also includes many relevant links) .