New Report on Internet Predators

My friend, Nancy Willard (Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use), shares, via the ever present WWWEDU, a new report from American Psychologist, a journal of the American Psychological Association.  The report, Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims: Myths, Realities and Implications for Prevention, is based on a study involving three surveys conducted in 2000 and 2005, including Internet users from age 10 to 17, and federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.

For an APA press release, Janis Wolak, the lead author of the student, said,

“To prevent these crimes, we need accurate information about their true dynamics.”

“The things that we hear and fear and the things that actually occur may not be the same. The newness of the environment makes it hard to see where the danger is.”

As an example, spite of public concern, the authors found that adolescents’ use of popular social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook do not appear to increase their risk of being victimized by online predators. Rather, it is risky online interactions such as talking online about sex to unknown people that increases vulnerability, according to the researchers.

Among the findings, according to the 18 February APA press release:

  • Internet offenders pretended to be teenagers in only 5 percent of the crimes studied by researchers.
  • Nearly 75 percent of victims who met offenders face-to-face did so more than once.
  • Online sex offenders are seldom violent, and cases involving stalking or abduction are very rare.
  • Youth who engaged in four or more risky online behaviors were much more likely to report receiving online sexual solicitations. The online risky behaviors included maintaining buddy lists that included strangers, discussing sex online with people they did not know in person and being rude or nasty online.
  • Boys who are gay or are questioning their sexuality may be more susceptible to Internet-initiated sex crimes than other populations. Researchers found boys were the victims in nearly one-quarter of criminal cases, and most cases included facts that suggested victims were gay or questioning their sexuality.

You can download a PDF of the original AP article here.

Willard, Nancy. “Finally, great research insight on online predators.” E-mail to WWEDU Mailing List.19 Feb 2008.

Mills, Kim. “‘INTERNET PREDATOR’ STEREOTYPES DEBUNKED IN NEW STUDY.” APA Online. 18 Feb 2008. American Psychological Assocation. 21 Feb 2008 <>.

Image Citation:
Carmichal, Alex. “The Future.” Roujo’s Photostream. 31 Oct 2007. 21 Feb 2008 <>.

7 thoughts on “New Report on Internet Predators”

  1. Not all e-safety issues are about predators and I think it is accepted (except perhaps in the media!) that these are rare in the sense that the problems are few in relation to the total number of social networking users. Educating the users is the key. But bullying via mobile and the internet is prevalent: research by Sonia Livingstone suggest 10-20% of social networking teenagers have sent or received bullying messages. Then there is the general level of inappropriate material available on these sites that make them impossible to use FOR educational purposed (teaching “with” rather than “about”). has been set up to address some of these issues with a registration process for schools and fully traceable accounts. (see for more information). The power of blogging and social networking can only be realised when teachers have a site they can use where they feel comfortable that these e-safety issues have been addressed.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I haven’t read the actual article yet. I hope I don’t find out it’s sponsored by the owners of Facebook and Myspace. However, it seems to confirm what those of us who use online networking suspect. I’d also like to see a study on cyberbullying, know of any?

    (Incidentally, your link to the article has one too many http’s in it and it comes up dead.)

  3. As a generalization, there seems to be two opposing camps of thought. One that is sounding a huge alarm about online dangers, and another that is attempting to use data and research to debunk the alarmists. In my impression, both factions have been focused too much on the Internet and social networking portion of the issue.

    I hope this study helps people understand that this is a people and behavior issue, not a technology issue. The Internet and social networking have created an environment which makes an easy catalyst for people’s poor behavior and decision-making to be visible to a large audience, but it is the behavior nonetheless.

  4. Like so many things with teenagers, telling them not to is never the best way to keep them safe as far as I can tell. Teaching them ways to keep themselves safe and have respect for themselves always seems to be the best approach in my book. I’m really glad to read this research and feel that it backs up my opinions. I definitely have to read more to be sure though. Thanks for the link!

  5. The data is old. They used data from as much as 8 years ago. And all this did was show that predators don’t lie. In fact, most are up front — but that doesn’t lessen the stats that show that teens are talking to them, meeting up with them and havig repeat sexual encounters. Why would a predator lie and pretend to be a friend? it’s easier to be up front, friendly, nice and offer an escape from the often ‘miserable’ teenage life. ( you know, we were all teens once, parents don’t understand me, kids at school are jerks, etc…)

    Bottom line is parents just need to watch their own kids. tune out the reports and just be sensible 21st century parents. pretty simple if you ask me.

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