You can always count on Larry Magid and Anne Collier of Blog Safety and Net Family News for a solid perspective on online predators. Last week they published an editorial in the San Jose Mercury News entitled Tell teens about good, bad sides of social networking. Here are the highlights:
- MySpace has announced it has deleted 29,000 profiles of sexual predators. Assuming that there were no duplicates, that represents less than 5% of the known sexual predators in the US.
- Using a news analysis, out of the 12 million teens online, 100 have been victims of sexual exploitation. That percentage is too small to calculate.
- None of the youth that have been sexually exploited as a result of an online sexual predator were kidnapped — all went willingly with their assailant, and many had sex “consensually” (as much as you believe a minor can consent to sexual activity — but that is a discussion for another day).
The major message these two want to convey is to keep these numbers in perspective. That panicking about this issue and prohibiting teens from going online will only drive them “underground” — away from healthy discussions.
And given that most sexual abuse happens closer to home, driving your teens away is probably the last thing you want to do if you are really concerned about sexual exploitation.