Turns Out Social Networks Aren't Breeding Grounds For Sexual Predators

from the won't-stop-politician-grandstanding dept

Over the past few years there has been a huge number of grandstanding politicians claiming that social networks like Facebook and MySpace were breeding grounds for online predators, who were trying to entice children. They've been pushing for new laws, basically so they can get into the papers along with some quip about how they are out there protecting "the children." Of course, it turns out that the entire premise is faulty. A few years back we pointed to a study that showed the problem was entirely exaggerated. Very few kids were approached by predators and most who were could easily brush it off, so long as they had been educated about the risks. Now there's a new study out going even deeper in noting that sexual predators are unlikely to pretend to be teenagers using social networks, but rather are very upfront about who they are and what they want. In most cases, the victims knew that they were chatting with an older person, and believed that they were in a legitimate relationship, rather than being tricked. Once again, this suggests that all the hype and new laws being proposed to deal with the "problem" of predators on social networks are misplaced. The focus should be on basic education. Teach kids to have some "internet smarts" and they're probably going to be just fine.

Filed Under: predators, social networks

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  1. identicon
    DanC, 19 Feb 2008 @ 7:10am

    "just that any effort to reign in sexual predators is 'counterproductive'"

    Any effort to reign in sexual predators that relies on hunches and gut feelings is misguided at best. Why would you support measures that will fail to accomplish their goals because the people who wrote the measures don't understand the problem?

    It's very similar to how some people "know" that violent video games lead to real life violence, even though all the studies show no link. Lack of evidence doesn't stop them from trying to put measures and laws in place. And in no surprise whatsoever, those measures fail to work.

    Passing laws to "protect the children" has become a crutch for politicians to pass laws that illegally infringe on free speech and the Supreme Court keeps throwing most of them out.

    "it is all the victim's fault."

    No, it's a weird exclusion that the internet is given to the common sense rules that parents teach their kids. 'Don't talk to strangers' was always a big one when I was growing up. Somewhere along the way, I guess someone added 'except on the internet' in invisible ink.

    Most of us are tired of our government trying to pass laws that attempt to legislate parenting. If you don't want your kids talking to strangers in chat rooms, the solution is educating them and enforcing the rules that parents are supposed to establish.

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