Many parental worries about Internet sex predators are unjustified, says new research cited by McClatchy Newspapers. “There’s been some overreaction to the new technology, especially when it comes to the danger that strangers represent,” said Janis Wolak, a sociologist at the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. “Actually, Internet-related sex crimes are a pretty small proportion of sex crimes that adolescents suffer.”
In an article published his week in American Psychologist, the journal of the American Psychological Association, Wolak and co-researchers examined several fears that they concluded are myths. Among them: Internet predators are driving up child sex crime rates. Actually, sex assaults on teens fell 52 percent from 1993 to 2005, according to the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey. Another myth is that Internet predators are pedophiles. The center found that Internet predators don’t hit on the prepubescent children whom pedophiles target. They target adolescents, who have more access to computers, more privacy, and more interest in sex and romance. It’s not true that most online interactions with strangers are risky. The survey found that many teens interact online all the time with people they don’t know. What’s risky, according to Wolak, is giving out names, phone numbers and pictures to strangers and talking online with them about sex.