Not exactly, study says
We've been spectators, enraptured with a mixture of fascination and revulsion at the spectacle that is "To Catch a Predator," the freak show where we shake our heads in consternation. Not saying they don't deserve it, but it was undoubtedly one of the truly low points in contemporary pop culture.
It also led parents to believe that anytime their children are on the computer, a slavering fiend is on the other end, rubbing his hands together deviously and looking for an opening. Hell, even Tennessee jumped on the bandwagon with a law enforcement coalition
to tackle Internet predators.
It makes for "good" television (compelling and addictive), but it's overstated, according to a study released by a task force
composed of 49 state attorneys general, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society and a whole bevy of search engines and IPs. The long and short of it is that, in many cases, the problems are created by the young Internet users themselves. I don't think the purpose is to blame them, but that maybe safety will be found in safer online behavior among minors rather than some law enforcement crackdown on the unwieldy cyberbeast. Here are the highlights:
--Unfortunately, most of the law enforcement research on Internet
exploitation they relied on predated the rise of social networks. Most
of the cases involved post-pubescent males who knew they were meeting an
adult for the the purposes of sex. Not included in the
dialogue of online safety is the increase in minors reporting sexual
solicitation by other minors, a thing reported with increasing frequency.
Bullying and harassment are the most frequent threats kids face online.
The Internet does increase the availability of harmful or
sexual material, but it doesn't necessarily increase the likelihood
that a minor will see it. Those most likely to see it are the ones
looking for it in the first place.
Minors aren't equally at risk online. Kids who are most at
risk are engaging in risky behaviors and have problems at home. Family
dynamics and psychosocial makeup (well-adjusted, not so much, etc.) are
better predictors for exposure to harmful elements than is, say,
whether they use Facebook or MySpace.
In summation, the researchers say this is just the beginning.
Too little is known about the actual risks and the role minors
themselves play in contributing to a dangerous Internet environment.