A Closer Look:Who’s At Risk?
With the advent of social networking sites and detailed chat profiles, predators don’t need to work very hard to piece together information about a child online. Predators can judge by the appearance of a profile or by the behavior that a child is exhibiting whether he or she might be a prime target for an online relationship.
Teens who don’t use privacy settings on social networking and gaming sites often place their information—including their deepest desires, likes and dislikes, real-time moods, pictures, addresses, and phone numbers—for anyone to see. Teens who post personal information, blog, or journal about sensitive issues may also be easy targets for predators who seek to isolate children from their parents and friends and exploit a child’s emotional vulnerabilities.
Risky Online Behaviors
The more risky behaviors kids engage in online, the more likely they will receive an online sexual solicitation. These risky behaviors include:1
1. Posting personal information (50%*)
2. Interacting with online strangers (45%)
3. Placing strangers on buddy lists (35%)
4. Sending personal information to strangers (26%)
5. Visiting X-rated sites (13%)
6. Talking about sex with strangers (5%)
* Percentage of teens demonstrating indicated behavior.
(1) "Internet Prevention Messages: Targeting the Right Online Behaviors", 2007.
Some teens think it is fun to flirt with online strangers, seek “hookups” with other teens and adults, and discuss and share images of their sexual exploits publicly. Those who use sexually inviting usernames, discuss sex online, and arrange to meet for sex place themselves at great risk. Also in danger of becoming targets are teens who are exploring sexual issues online—including sexual orientation—and those interested in meeting strangers online.
Teens who don’t tell their parents when they meet someone or see something that makes them uncomfortable online are also at risk. Some experts suggest that these are vulnerable and at-risk teens to begin with, and are most likely to come from families where the parents are not sufficiently involved with their children.
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