It's become quite clear that the threat to children from sexual predators on the internet has been massively overhyped by the media looking for a juicy story and for politicians looking to take advantage of it. Studies have shown that the number of sexual offenses against kids has dropped
while internet use has grown, and fewer kids
are actually being targeted by predators. What's always been interesting throughout this long-running moral panic is that kids have been shown to actually be pretty savvy
in dealing with strangers online, and that perhaps politicians give them far less credit than they deserve in these areas. As we've noted, teaching kids how to deal with dangers they might face online -- just as with dangers they might face in real life -- is a much better way to keep them safe than by searching for some legal or technological magic bullet
to eradicate sex offenders and protect the children. Now, another study has emerged saying that kids talk to their friends, and not strangers, online
. Kids' primary use of social networking sites isn't to try and meet new people, let alone strangers, but rather to keep up with their real-life friends. The stories of kids being lured in by online predators grab lots of attention, and such incidents are undoubtedly despicable, but it's important to also remember that they are relatively rare.