The internet is a buzz today with a study that came out last week talking about how the percentage of children that are harassed sexually online. The report claims a third of all tweenagers between 10 and 15 have had inappropriate sexual advances made on them by adults.
The results of the survey are being used to taught the greater security that comes from social networks vs. IM and Chat Rooms. I find the results interesting, but fail to see this as a glowing recommendation of the safety found on social networks.
First an foremost in my mind is the age restrictions placed on minor’s accounts on Facebook and Myspace. People under the age of 14 have extremely limited accounts are incredibly hard to contact if you do not receive permission first.
I applauded Facebook and Myspace for placing these restrictions on accounts, but what about the 15-17 crowd still being exposed to unwarranted advances. I wonder if the study would have yielded the same results if a slightly older crowd was surveyed.
Secondly, IM and chat are not the beginning of someones social interaction. IM in particular is a tool used to communicate with people already in your social graph. Once you have meet someone on a social network you may begin to chat with them. Does this let social networks off the hook because the crime took place in a third party chat?
I agree social networks are more likely to be safer than IM or chat for minors. My fear however is people will read these results and drop their guard. The survey states the 55 percent of harassments come from chat rooms and IMs, doesn’t that then imply that 45 percent comes from social networks?
The bottom line is this regardless of how your child is communicating online; chat, IM, SMS, online video games, social networks or basic email, parents must remain vigilant. I do not have children but I have to ask. What do you feel is the safest way for your children to be online? Do you let your child surf the internet without your supervision.