Teenagers Aren't Afraid Of Strangers Online

from the stranger!!-stranger!!-stranger!! dept

When I was growing up, it was drilled into my elementary school brain to "don't talk to strangers" -- it instilled so much fear in me that whenever I did see a stranger, I would burst into a cold sweat and my pulse would quicken a bit, in anticipation of being kidnapped or offered candy. Luckily, my fears were unfounded, but the "don't talk to strangers" lessons are still vivid memories from my childhood. Apparently, kids these days don't share my childhood fears. In a recent study conducted by the Pew Internet and the American Life Project, only about 5 to 10 percent teenagers contacted online by strangers felt scared or uncomfortable by the experience. The study also found that 44 percent of teenagers with online profiles on sites like Facebook and MySpace were contacted by strangers, as compared to only 16 percent of those without profiles. Obviously, as more and more teens increase their digital footprint, the possibility that they may come in contact with a stranger increases in likelihood. And, since safe, positive interactions with strangers take place every day online, it makes sense that these teenagers don't really see it as creepy or scary. That said, hopefully they do understand how to deal with people they don't know online -- not that they should shut off all contact with people, but rather approach them with caution and only reveal personal information when they are sure that the new acquaintance is trusted. In any case, it's only a matter of time before some legislator gets their hands on this study and uses it as "proof" that teenagers are lax in their fear of strangers online.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Chris, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 9:46am

    Sad Truth

    "In any case, it's only a matter of time before some legislator gets their hands on this study and uses it as "proof" that teenagers are lax in their fear of stranger online."

    and it will only be a matter of time before I see the internet blocked at my school because it lets me talk to people that might have different political opinions (such as the world was created by a God and not evolution) than the school teaches.

    I'm that popular in school, and the only place I really have any friends is the internet. I've met a many people that I don't know and now know quite well. But I pose this question, are we not all stranger to one another before we become friends?

     

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  2.  
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    WarOtter (profile), Oct 17th, 2007 @ 10:03am

    Re: Sad Truth

    "But I pose this question, are we not all stranger to one another before we become friends?"

    I think Pennywise the clown said that same thing to Georgie right before ripping his arm off.

     

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  3.  
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    TheDock22, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 10:17am

    Re: Sad Truth

    I'm that popular in school, and the only place I really have any friends is the internet.

    I think you need to unplug from your digital friends and meet some warm-body individuals to hang out with. That doesn't mean you have to try any make friends in school, but why not try extracurricular activities or a job? Internet friends are no replacement for people you can actually see and talk to because you might still feel lonely.

    Now back on topic: I don't think strangers are a problem online to teenagers. Assuming the parents are responsible, their children will have enough sense to not run off meeting people they only talk to online. I would like to see the study of how many teenagers aren't afraid of strangers online compared to the ones that actually get hurt by strangers online. I bet those numbers would be pretty low and boring.

     

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  4.  
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    Kevin, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 10:57am

    Definitions...

    How do you define "being contacted online by a stranger"? Is it getting an unsolicited email? I'm not a teen, but I get a couple hundred of those a day and think nothing of them. I play online games (WoW and Lord of the Rings Online), and frequently "run into" people online that I end up adventuring with for awhile. Does that count as being contacted by strangers?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 11:08am

    "Luckily, my fears were unfounded..."

    How do you know? How do you know that one of the strangers you avoided wasn't, in fact, going to be your kidnapper/molester/whatever.

     

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  6.  
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    Nick (profile), Oct 17th, 2007 @ 11:09am

    Kids growing up today have better BS filters than the kids in the past, and possibly better than some of their parents because they are made to deal with spam and, random friending on social networks. Sensationalizing kidnapping are rapes that were made possible by social networking sites is great media fodder. It gets parents to watch TV which generates ad sales. Like terrorism, the concern is bigger than the actual number of people affected by it first hand. It is only because it (social netowrking sites) are new in that media can take advantage of using it as a scare tactic to increase ratings, and then these tactics get the attention of politicians who then take the opportunity to grandstand on the issues. It's FUD for fun and profit.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 11:18am

    I wish more children were more aware of the nature of online conduct. I regularly have CHILDREN contact me because I have an easy to "guess" online chat name, and then attack me when they bother to read my profile because I'm not the 12 year old child that they think all online people should be. I'm close to 40, and that just invites them to attack me with "r u a rapist?" and things of that nature.

    Parents can't be sitting beside their children all the time, but assuredly the responsibility is in teaching right and wrong social conduct, as well as spot-checking logs of their children's activities. Anything less monitoring than that is perversely negligent. As Chris Rock says "Keep yo baby off the pole!"

     

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  8.  
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    TKM, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 11:36am

    Non-Issue

    If a teenager is careless/stupid enough to let a complete stranger cause them harm over the internet... I really can't feel bad for them

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 11:37am

    Maybe children aren't as scared of strangers online as in real life becuase online they can't really hurt you unless you give out some info. If you see a stranger in real life, it's much easier for them to pick you up throw you in a van and drive away.

     

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  10.  
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    Palmyra, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 11:37am

    Re: Sad Truth

    But everyone knows that the world was created by the Spaghetti Monster.

     

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  11.  
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    Casper, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 12:04pm

    This is all really simple..

    When I was a teenager I was in contact with people online all the time. I met new people quite often, heck, I have met some of them in real life. Guess what, I'm still alive. Not because some nanny program managed my life and not because someone filtered all my content, but because I was smart enough to know that not everyone is my friend.

    It doesn't matter if it is online or in real life, most of these exceptionally naive people meet with trouble. Just because the predator that gets them is from online, doesn't mean they couldn't have gotten them by meeting them after school or at the bowling alley.

    Parents need to teacher their kids that there are dangers in the world and stop creating victims.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 1:10pm

    Re:

    So you have the "bravery of being out of range". In otherwords, they act like cowards who can bully and belittle and act like whatever their parents would scold them for, because they do so without any oversight.

    Trust me, I often am able to do a quick google search and come up with more information than most of them think I can find on them. I'm constantly hearing "ur frekin me out ru sum sorta stalker?" to which I reply, "You SHOULD have thought of that before you decided to contact me. Now you'll just sleep lightly for the rest of this month having to wonder if I am or not."

    While I would never commit any crimes, I have been tempted on numerous occasions, and actually HAVE had to contact schools, parents and in one excessive case authorities on these cowardly little shits. No good will come out of my attempts to rid this type of behavior, but I can pluck them out from feeling safe and brave, even if it is just one by one.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 1:36pm

    Re:

    How do you know someone's not watching you unseen right now, waiting for the right moment to strangle you with your computer's power cord?
    You can live your life through paranoid fear, or not, and the biggest difference it will make is how much you enjoy life

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 1:41pm

    Re: Re:

    gotta love online vigilante justice

     

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  15.  
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    Nocturne, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 2:06pm

    uhh..lol

    I'm 20 and I've been meeting strangers online since i was about 16, its called the life of a gamer, meet someone in a game close to you, go have a lan party and drink a few illegal beers, hell my girlfriend for 2 years running i met in a game(counter strike) were getting engaged soon, its not teach your kids to be scared of everyone, its more teach your kids that it needs time to learn to trust people, on the net(a good while) and you need to learn who sounds fishy and stupid and who doesn't, its all common sense.(and excuse my punctuation that was one big run on sentence, but im late for work i just had to leave my $.10 lol)

     

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  16.  
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    anthony, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 2:38pm

    Re: uhh..lol

    i agree with you 100% even tho i did not meet my girl online (at a party) i think this is all steriotypes by parents [coments above]. you meet people online you talk to them. we are not idiots. also, if you parents have filters such as netnanny and the such, you have to understand that one day we will not be 10 forever and racecars and dora is not what life is all about. (for you kids with netnanny do a google search on a linux live cd)

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 2:42pm

    "and it will only be a matter of time before I see the Internet blocked at my school because it lets me talk to people that might have different political opinions (such as the world was created by a God and not evolution)"

    No one says that evolution created the world. Evolution and creationism are explanations of two completely different events. It's quite possible that god created the world and that everything evolved from there.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 2:57pm

    Well, they have to learn sometime

    I'm a university student, and frankly, parents/teachers/other adults need to teach teeenagers how to deal with meeting strangers, not force them to never meet anyone new. Once they go to to university, or leave home or whatever, they will meet almost entirely strangers for sometime. For the first week of university, eveyone I meet was a stranger in effect. I know that none of them where to be trusted, and not to reveal too much, but frankly the chane of any randomly picked person in society being a danager to you is quite small, there being lots of perfectly normal, nice people who don't want to kill you, rape you, abduct you etc. Get real. We only hear about it in the media because it is so relatively rare, like plane crashes!

     

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  19.  
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    ZMan, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 3:30pm

    Online Victimization Conference

    The online victimization and stranger danger is blown out of proportion.

    See the following site with studies to show this.

    http://www.geocities.com/eoped/isc-hearing-res.html

     

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  20.  
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    Chris, Oct 17th, 2007 @ 4:07pm

    Re: Re: Sad Truth

    I know plenty of "warm-body"-ed people. It's just that outside of school there isn't much contact. I live about 10 miles from my school and most of my friends at school live about 2 miles from it, so seeing as I don't have a car/drivers license it is a bit difficult to "hang out" as you say.

    I also have a job, but that doesn't mean I hang out with people outside of my job, I only know them while I work and no other time. I have fun at my job, but I would not say that they are "true friends".

    All I was saying is that I'm not that popular at school. I do have some friends, but not many, and not many that I can hang out with after school. I am involved in a club and I enjoy it, but thats once a week. What I meant by saying that is mainly that most of my friends are online. It doesn't make them any less "warm-body"-ed, it just means that I talk with them digitally. I talk with some of them on the phone and some hope to meet, but they are still real people.

     

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  21.  
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    maria, Dec 12th, 2007 @ 12:27pm

    internet safety

    Im a teen and i cant stand to be near someone i dont know!I have a myspace and a face book and i dont talk to strangers

     

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  22.  
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    meg, Mar 8th, 2008 @ 4:22pm

    Teenagers running off with internet lovers

    My sister spent the night with her so called "boyfriend" in a caravan park last night. You know no one believed me when i told them and there was no way i could get down there. She thinks she is in lvoe with him and that he is her onl;y firend that understands her. It's bullshit I am so sick of all this MSN and bebo crap. It should be more insecure like you should not be able to exhange location details or phone numbers. What is there to do you know, she planned to actually run away with it bloody hell, this issue with this internet messaging is beyond a joke.

     

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  23.  
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    Concerned Citizen, May 3rd, 2008 @ 10:08am

    Help for Parents

    I share your concerns regarding teenage online activity. It's a good thing there is an answer - or at least some form of help. Parents should download keylogger software and carefully monitor their kids' online activities. Teens may begin by chatting with strangers, but we never know when these supposedly innocent online chats will turn into a face-to-face meeting. And the scariest thing is that you never know how old the person you're chatting with is. I read some of the comments left regarding this article and I think it is very clear that our teens and unfortunately, some adults, are naive. Teens tend to think that they are equal to adults in every way. And if not equal, then maybe even superior. Some teens are convinced that adults do not see the world as it really is. It's an illusion they live in...a cloud. I know that some teens will read my comments and get extremely upset. But you know what? I would rather my three teens be pissed off than dead and laying in some gutter. Don't you agree? For you parents out there, have a look at www.TeenMonitor.blogspot.com and www.VigilantParenting.blogspot.com for some tips and recommendations.

     

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  24.  
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    Carla Landy, Aug 5th, 2008 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Re: Sad Truth

    pennywise! Haven't thought about HIM in a while! " we all float down here..." Oooo! Shudder! Nice to find a fellow fan in an unexpected place!

     

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  25.  
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    nearly.sane, Apr 29th, 2009 @ 7:30pm

    Re: Re: Sad Truth

    spaghetti monster???

     

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