Don’t Call Me Stupid!

Came across this new non-profit organization The Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication (I.R.O.C.2) through a press release (should have seen the warning flags there). According to their website, this organization “is dedicated to educating society about safety, self responsibility, self accountability and the devastating and life altering consequences (emphasis added) that can occur.”

They claim to promote online safety through “Digital Responsibility.” While I support the idea of acting responsbily online, I am wary of some of their language which seems to be very blaming and alarm-causing. For example, one of the workshops they seem to be promoting highly is called “Sexting is Stupid.” The title itself fails to appreciate that some aspects of sexting, while possibly not the best idea ever, are still within the realm of developmentally appropriate (sexual expression, desire to be loved, etc).

I sure hope that organizations like this don’t take off. The last thing we need is more fear-promoting, alarmist groups claiming to improve online safety and usage in youth.

The Law is Still Catching Predators — Just Not on TV

A new report finds that more people are being arrested for sexually soliciting youth online than they were six years ago. However, this is mostly due to “sting” operations, where the number of arrests for soliciting undercover investigators who posed as juveniles increased almost 500%. In contrast, arrests for solicitation of actual children increased 21% from 2000-2006. Although it should be alarming that those crimes involving actual children are increasing, it is important to remember that internet use overall during this time has increased much more than 21%. So, proportionally, these solicitations are on the decline.

According to the report, arrests of online predators comprised only 1% of all sex crimes against minors. By far, the vast majority of sex crimes against minors are within the family or local community — not by online strangers. On a similar note, the report also noted that there is little to no evidence that minors were being “lured” by adults or found by predators based on personal information they post. Instead, youths were the ones reaching out to people whom they knew to be adults and seeking relationships with them. Unfortunately, some of these adults take advantage of such situations.

Bottom line is that online predation remains a rare occurrence. Minors are more often abused by someone close to them (either a family or local community member), and when they are sexually involved with someone online, it is someone whom they already know to be an adult, and actively have formed a relationship with.