19 February, 2008

'Internet predator' stereotypes debunked

Most Internet sex offenders are not adults who target young children by posing as another youth, but rather are adults who target teens, a U.S. study found.

Researchers Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, Kimberly Mitchell and Michele Ybarra of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire say most online sex offenders are adults who target teens and seduce victims into sexual relationships.

They take time to develop the trust and confidence of victims, so that the teens see these relationships as romances or sexual adventures, the researchers said in a statement.

In spite of public concern, the study found social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook do not appear to increase the risk of youth being victimized by online predators, but talking online about sex to unknown people increases vulnerability, the study says.

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