Poll Indicates That Teens Keep Rules of Internet Communication

A new Harris poll indicates that teenagers are savvy about the etiquette of communication through text messaging, cell phones, and other new devices.

 About 67% of the teens said they would not break up with someone over a phone, email, instant or text messaging or on an Internet social network website. Over 40% said they would not use those means to argue with friends. Teens reported they are most likely to talk about serious and important subjects on a cell phone rather than the more public forms available today. The poll found that most teen communications occur over cell phones, social network websites, and landline phones.

 The Harris poll took place December 14-22, 2006 among 1726 people ages 8 through 18.

 Sexual Solicitation Not as Common Online

Teens experience fewer incidents of sexual harassment on social network websites such as MySpace and Facebook than they do in chatrooms or through Instant Messages, according to a new study published in the journal, Pediatrics.

Michele Ybarra and her colleagues surveyed 1,588 children ages 10 to 15 years old about sexual solicitation online. About 15% had experienced such a solicitation, but only one-fourth of those occurred on social network sites. The majority of solicitations (55%) took place in instant messaging, followed by 32% in chatrooms and 25% on social networks.

“We need to help parents understand it’s not about social networking sites, it’s about monitoring what’s going on,” Ybarra said.

Some experts found a flaw in the study in that children under age 14 and 16 years are not allowed on social networks.

Teens Often Willing Participants in Online “Romances” with Adults

Online sexual predators are not usually adults pretending to be children. They do not often stalk small children but teenagers. They do not usually look for their prey on Web sites like MySpace or Facebook, but rather in chat rooms. Online sexual predators tend to be young adults who look for vulnerable teenagers. Usually, they meet them face-to-face a few times and gradually build up to a consenting sexual relationship.

These are conclusions from a new 10-year study of Internet predators published in this month’s issue of American Psychologist.

Researchers took two telephone surveys of more than 3,000 teenagers 10 to 17 years old, and then interviewed more than 600 police officers about online sexual predators.

The data indicated that victims tended to be teens that had poor relationships with their parents. About one-quarter of them were boys, especially those who were gay or questioning their sexuality. Teens tended to meet predators in chat rooms, not social network Web sites. Behaviors that put teens especially at risk included being rude online, discussing sex online with strangers, and allowing strangers to be on their “friends” lists. The teens often were looking for adventure and romance, and were willing participants in face-to-face encounters. The predators usually were not violent or stalking.

“Online molesters do not appear to be stalking unsuspecting victims but rather continuing to seek youths who are susceptible to seduction,” according to the report printed by the American Psychological Association.