by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 12th 2007 12:56am
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.
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