Press, Parents And 'Experts' Blew Online Safety Threat To Children Way Out Of Proportion

from the kids-are-pretty-safe dept

If you pay attention to most of the mainstream press these days, you could be forgiven for thinking that the internet is a den of sin, where children are constantly preyed upon by predators from every angle... especially on social networks. After all, we've been told about all the sex offenders on MySpace and Facebook. There are even a few so-called "experts" who you see quoted repeatedly on just how dangerous it is for kids online -- even though study after study has actually shown that fewer kids are being solicited -- and most kids seem smart enough to be able to deal with unwanted contacts just fine. However, you don't see those stories very often, because it's not as headline grabbing to say: Hey, Everyone's Overreacting! But sometimes it does happen... and USA Today has a nice article explaining that many parents and politicians are significantly overreacting to the "threats" online facing children. As the article notes, it's extremely rare for someone to "stalk" a person via their profile and abduct them. In fact, sexual abuse cases against children are way down (by 50%) from 1990 to 2005, as the internet became so much more popular. So, the idea that the internet and social networks have somehow put more children into harms way seems totally incorrect, and it's nice to see a news source like USA Today making that clear. This isn't to say children shouldn't be taught how to deal with strangers online -- but it's like learning how to deal with strangers you run into on the street. You don't keep your children from meeting strangers completely, you teach them how to be safe.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 2:10am

    Children are safer online than in real life. You are most likely to be molested, beaten, raped or killed by someone you know. Most likely, someone you are related to.

    Instead of freaking out because your kid reads slashdot or has a myspace page, perhaps be more worried about all the rotating step-daddies you're bringing home. Statistically speaking, step dads and biological moms are the biggest of such risks (seriously, look it up) to children.

    Not to mention all of the priests, coaches and teachers.

    There was a report last week where they mentioned almost 3,000 teachers are known to have molested their students in the united states alone. In the last five years alone. And those are only the ones that we knew about. That means something like at least 600 kids every year molested by teachers . . . how many were picked up and raped online? I'm guessing that statistically, sending your child to school is FAR more dangerous than letting them use a browser.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    dorpus, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 2:10am

    Is this a Non-Threat?

    Obscene downloadable Japanese games for portable gaming devices are raising eyebrows in Korea. The goal of the game is to molest young girls using the touchpad, and kids are playing them in public places such as subway trains. The kids say Korean games aren't as interesting, so they are downloading illegal copies of the X-rated games.

    Pictures at 251534

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Michael Whitetail, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 2:13am

    You expect parents to be *responsible?* This is America we're talking about here. The country where consolers and psychologists teach children to not take responsibility for their actions by showing them how to assess blame, since the day they first walked into kindergarten!

    beyond that, what would politicians save the children from as part of getting reelected if there was little to no danger online?

    If the danger was so minimal, how could news outfits like Fox and CNN turn a profit being that the 'cause' of the fear mongering was a lie all along?

    American society might just unravel if this turns out to be true

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. Parenting is the key to safety

    The kids you hear about that meet someone online then sneak out of the house to meet them or are somehow abducted from this meeting on the web are sensationalized.

    I too am happy to see USA Today report the truth on these statistics. Parents must be responsible in teaching their kids about all the dangers in the world today and what to do if they encounter any, whether on the web, at school or on the streets.

    Many experts always seek out publicity, anyway they can and usually with a controversial subject that the media just loves to exploit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    * Miss Universe, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 2:54am

    How Much Caution is Too Much?

    How much precaution and caution are too much - even if they are somewhat irrational?

    Is it necessary to overreact to drill the point home to both parents and children, in this two parent workforce generation?

    Perhaps, as long as it does not get to the point of paranoia, or cause long term psychological effects society will test erring with too much caution at the beginning of this social Web 2.0 trend and then slowly find a practical balance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 3:42am

    Re: How Much Caution is Too Much?

    The caution is damaging, however, is well past damaging, as it causes sites like Myspace to be constantly assailed with lawsuits. Moreover, it is just another symptom of a blame-others mentality that is a disease in our nation at the moment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Haywood, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 4:50am

    Re: How Much Caution is Too Much?

    Thing is; you don't get stronger by avoiding danger or temptation, you get stronger by learning to deal with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    I like Mike, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 6:35am

    I have kids

    I have a similar argument with my wife about our children's internet usage. She buys into all the hype and thus wants to 'ban' the internet from our house. I counter that it is better to teach our children some common sense rules about what type of 'conversation' you can have via the internet and to teach them to recognize and tell us of any inappropriate contact.

    I also have strict rules on what information they can communicate. I don't allow my children to upload pictures, post the name our hometown, or even the name of the sports teams they like. Personal information such as name, phone, school or address are absolutely forbidden on any open site.

    I log all their websites and I require them to give me the user name and password to any accounts they setup. All chats are recorded as well.

    The point is you can make the internet as safe for you kids as any other environment provided you are act as responsible parent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 6:41am


    won't someone PLEASE think of the children!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Mack, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 7:04am

    Re: I have kids

    I log all their websites and I require them to give me the user name and password to any accounts they setup. All chats are recorded as well

    What, no recording of their phone calls? No cameras watching every move? And you call yourself responsible!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Rob S, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 7:12am

    There is a huge amount of money being spent on 'saving the children'; as a parent of three, I too fall into this trap and protect my kids from something by preventing access rather than teaching boundaries.

    The simple fact is that billions are being made by companies helping parents 'save the children'; by overblowing or inventing threats to kids, they are simply making more & more money. And when the news picks up on it.... watch out; that is a credible source for a lot of people....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Overcast, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 7:18am

    At the current rate of 'saving our children' by government - there will be no rights in 20 years for anyone.

    So will the children be safe then? Maybe from 'the man on the street', but from government?

    All things considered - history proves the government is the worst serial killer by far.. So, ummm, yeah - that makes sense.

    Of course, Government was only corrupt for the last 9,950 years. But it's all better now, over the last 50 years. That makes sense, I'd believe a criminal with a very long history of abuse is 'better now' in the recent past.

    Hmm, odd logic indeed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 7:22am

    No studies to reference, just my own opinion. The internet has given an outlet to people who otherwise might be a threat. They are engaging in online fantasies instead of acting them out on real people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Captain Nemo, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 7:36am

    Re: Unraveling?

    It seems very unlikely that after more than 200 years of blaming violence and vice on video games, music, the internet, and even books (in the late 19th century), American society won't be able to move on to the latest media form to be bashed by concerned parents the extreme right. Worst case scenario: Someone invades the US while we're complaining about dirty websites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    dualboot, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 7:48am

    Being sensible...

    When I was growing up, the phone was in the main part of the house (kitchen) and we weren't allowed to take it to our rooms, even when we got a cordless. Now, mom didn't specifically say that she was evesdropping on our phone calls, but we made sure not to say anything stupid, or call the boy that mom said was off-limits, because we knew she would know. I don't think requiring your kids to give you their passwords is terrible... parents have the responsibility of protecting their kids, and logging what information they're giving out to strangers is completely appropriate. I still had fun as a kid, but I didn't have bad things happen to me that happened to my friends who's parents were all about giving them their privacy. Two pregnant friends and a suicidal date-rape victim friend later, I was glad that my mom didn't let me take boys into my bedroom... it irritated me at the time, but my life has turned out alot better than the lives of those who's parents let them have their privacy. I didn't make alot of stupid mistakes, or get into alot of bad situations that my friends did. Mom eventually slackened her watchfullness, but that was after I had learned what responsible actions are, and aren't.

    I'll be honest... when my kids are old enough to chat online (or read), I will probably block most of the chat sites until we've drilled home the idea of what is or isn't allowed, and then slowly open the doorway, and monitor to make sure my kids are safe. Once we've established rules, I can start checking less and less often, until they are independent, but that would be a long way down the road.

    Also... I agree with Anonymous Coward that people with sick fantasies can find a place online to play them out (on adult sites), instead of finding a real person on the street, and victimizing them. In the long run, I think the internet has helped us, and we just need to teach children (as with any other experience in life) how to use it responsibly. That said... I always wondered when I watch the shows like "to catch a predator" what percentage of children would actually agree to the things that the decoys agree to. And how many parents are actually letting their 10-year-old child stay home alone or go to meet someone at McD's alone... we always had to have at least a sibling with us no matter what.... that deterred alot of things we could have done, too. Not wanting to get our siblings into trouble.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    barrenwaste, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 7:48am

    Re: How Much Caution is to Much

    You are joking, right? A six year old boy was brought up on sexual misconduct charges cause he kissed a six year old girl at school. It's a good thing that predater was caught. There are groups of people out there pretending to be adolecents with the singular goal of seducing socialy maladjusted adults online and bringing them to "justice". At least 90 percent of these monsters are then let go without charges because it was found that they did nothing wrong and that the person trying to seduce them did all the dirty talking and inuendo. Yup, that's protecting America for you. It's about time a large organiztion stood up and said enough is enough. As it stands it is illegal for a guy to ask a girl out if she says it was offensive or frightning after he asks. Honestly now, think about this. How many guys are just nervouse as hell, hoping not to get stomped on emotionally, and blurt out the wrong thing? Is that something that should be held against you for life? Something to keep you from getting jobs or moving without registering an address?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Cow-herder, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 12:12pm

    good thing pedos don't read newspapers?

    I was contacted by someone from the Min of Ed. a while back and he was quite alarmed that I had photos of my children online, along with my own name and contact details.

    I was mildly annoyed by the implication that I was being an irresponsible parent.

    Statistics say 90% of the time children are abused by someone known to them. My wife was sexually abused by her father, and through therapy she's met many other abuse victims. All of the people she's met were abused by a family member or someone close to the family. And as you might imagine, my children know exactly what to do if someone acts inappropriately towards them.

    The same day I noticed that the local 'free' paper, delivered to every mailbox in the district had a front page photo of three children helping clean up a local gully. Full names provided, and location of the gully that they all lived nearby. Since then I've been keeping an eye on this local paper and every single edition has photos of children in it. Always with their full names, and always with some approximation of where they live, schools they attend, groups they're a member of. The sort of details that everyone says children should NEVER provide on the intarweb.

    The complete content of this newspaper is available on the intarweb, through the publisher's website.

    And we still visit my wife's parents regularly (family is family). They don't own a computer and wouldn't know how to use the internet at all, but they do live in the same district and my wife's father, a convicted pedophile, is delivered the same free newspaper every week.

    Isn't that funny.

    Posted anonymously since my father in law has done his time, is unlikely to reoffend, and doesn't need any more grief.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Children Crusader, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 1:10pm

    Who are all these child predator supporters.

    What is all this pro-pedophilia talk. Don't you people know even suggesting that the online child predator problem might be overblown is the same as promoting child rape. This anti-child talk is blasphemous. You are interfering with the sacred child protection business. There ought to be a law against this type of discussion. Won't you please think of the children. I am reporting all your user names to CPS.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 2:04pm

    Re: good thing pedos don't read newspapers?

    "Statistics say 90% of the time children are abused by someone known to them."

    Thank you for writing this. _IF_ there is a threat, it's pretty much guaranteed to be someone you and your kid already know. Stranger danger exists but not in the proportion used by journalists to sell papers and companies to sell product.

    Not that it matters but ... I'm an abuse survivor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    some teen kid with an idea, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 2:19pm

    Re: I have kids

    For all you kids with parents as such. PLEASE READ THIS
    there is something called "linux live cd"

    go and download it. after that, you can go to any website without your parents knowing.

    Parents: Keep inmind that your kids are not gonna be 10 forever. They eventually will realize that life is more that racecars and cookies. Girls...

    Dont take this ofencivly. I dont mean it like that. Just ... Grow up!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Jhonny, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 2:26pm

    Re: I have kids

    OMG. If i had parents like you, id go and kill myself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Khanzza, Nov 12th, 2007 @ 3:07pm

    Self protection

    The best way to protect the children is to arm them, preferably with something fully automatic, but low in weigth and of appropriate dimensions for the child in question.
    Heckler&Koch have a excellent selection for concerned parents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    McCrea, Jul 5th, 2008 @ 11:44pm

    Yes, save the children

    Stop having kids. Problem eliminated in 18 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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