The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all, suggests a study reported by the New York Times. A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online concluded that there really is not a significant problem. The findings ran counter to popular perceptions of online dangers as reinforced by depictions like NBC's “To Catch a Predator” series. The Internet Safety Technical Task Force was charged with examining the extent of threats children face on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, amid fears that adults were using popular Web sites to deceive and prey on children.
The report concluded that the problem of bullying among children, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults. The report was the result of a year of meetings between dozens of academics, experts in childhood safety, and executives of 30 companies, including Yahoo, AOL, MySpace, and Facebook. The task force, led by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, looked at scientific data on online sexual predators and found that children and teenagers were unlikely to be propositioned by adults online. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal disagreed, saying, “Children are solicited every day online. Some fall prey, and the results are tragic. That harsh reality defies the statistical academic research underlying the report.”