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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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