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Is the Net dangerous for kids? The research shows …

“…the increased popularity of the Internet in America has not been correlated with an overall increase in reported sexual offenses; overall sexual offenses against children have gone steadily down in the last 18 years”

That’s from a preliminary 70-page review of the literature on the topic. Actual research, not scare stories or assumptions. The draft was put together primarily by Andrew Schrock and danah boyd (of the Berkman Center), for the Research Advisory Board of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force. It of course finds some important problems — for example, “the Internet increases children’s risk of ‘unwanted’ (accidental or inadvertent) exposure to sexual material” — but “Threats involving the Internet have not overtaken other harmful issues that youth encounter.” There’s lots and lots of details in the paper. For example:

On the topic of sexual solicitation, studies show that things are either improving or have been shown to be not be as prevalent and distressing to minors as initially anticipated. Between 2001 and 2005, the proportion of youth receiving unwanted Internet sexual solicitations went down (Wolak, Mitchell, & Finkelhor, 2006), although this decline was only seen among white youth and those living in higher income households (Mitchell, Wolak, & Finkelhor, 2007a).

The Task Force will publish its findings in January.

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6 Responses to “Is the Net dangerous for kids? The research shows …”

  1. […] preliminar de um estudo do berkman center de harvard diz que… “…the increased popularity of the Internet in America has not been correlated […]

  2. […] stats about kids and the Internet. Safer than they want you to […]

  3. […] # 2? Apparently, the Internet is not as bad as […]

  4. […] November 21st, 2008 By JOE WINDISH, Technology Editor  Print Counter intuitive? Michael Masnick at TechDirt: We’ve been pointing out for a while that the supposed “threat” of online sexual predators has been blown way out of proportion, thanks to the press and politicians’ desire to create moral panics that allow politicians to make themselves look good while passing useless laws. The Berkman Center, at Harvard, is about to come out with a new study that shows just how big a myth this has been. As the internet and things like social networks became more popular, the number of incidents of sexual offenses against children has dropped. […]

  5. The Internet is a tool and in itself is neither harmful nor harmless, what makes it either is how its used. As a parent I encourage my son to use the Internet in the same way he uses a library or telephone – with breaks for exercise and to rest his eyes, to check that he knows who he’s talking with – or not give information that could be used against him or us (like where in the house we hide the gold and jewels LOL), and to check the accuracy of information with a parent. Independent thinkers who have a grounded world view are less vulnerable to exploitation or bullying. Maybe we’d have less concern over scare stories if there was more cyber education at school (and make sure the parents attend a session too).

  6. Kay – good on you for encouraging your son to use the net wisely. As a cybersafety educator I have a couple of things to add:
    1. If your son has to check the accuracy of information with a parent (or other adult) is he really learning to be an independent thinker? Cybersafety education must start with the first steps i.e. as soon as children are exposed to technology they need to have cybercitizenship modeled to them. Which takes me to my second point…
    2. Parents should definitely attend some sort of cybersafety education be it a talk from an expert of an online course. But It’s extremely difficult to get parents along. Those that do come to my sessions are mainly concerned about child predators, but leave understanding more about scams, hacking, cyberbullying and self produced sexual content by children.

    Cybersafety is not all about predators and most kids will never be exposed to the problem. But most kids aren’t hit by cars or drowned in pools yet we still teach road and water safety.

    While studies like this one are useful in putting online issues into perspective, there is a danger that the odd smarty pants will take one study as the whole truth then turn around and say “see I told you it’s not an issue!”. Fortunately those are not usually the same people that have to deal with the parents of abused children.

    Luckily Kay’s son will never be someone who will take one piece of research as gospel since he is learning to be a critical thinker, which is the key to keeping safe online.

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