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.
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