From the Los Angeles TimesGreatest Internet threat to teens may be teens themselvesTeens are relatively safe from adults cruising online for sex with minors, a Harvard-led investigation finds. But beware the bullying and harassment by peers.
By Melissa Healy, January 26, 2009
Since emerging from the primordial ooze, parents have wrung their evolving appendages over ways to shield their offspring from hungry predators, lurking maniacs and strangers from without.
Again and again, they've learned, the threat to their children lies uncomfortably closer to home: Lion fathers would sooner eat their unprotected young than hunt wilier quarry; children pictured on milk cartons were more likely to have been snatched from home by an embattled parent than by a stranger; day-care providers were less intent on molesting a child in their care than was, say, a live-in partner, Uncle Wilbur or a trusted family friend.
It was a lesson brought home again earlier this month, when parents learned that the roughly six in 10 adolescents who socialize on the Internet have relatively little to fear from the faceless pervert lurking in the anonymity of cyberspace.
In an authoritative report almost a year in the making, a Harvard University-led task force on Internet safety, ordered by the nation's attorneys general and meant to expose the full extent of the danger, found instead that kids trading gossip, photos and plans on social networking sites such as MySpace are relatively safe from adults cruising online for sex with minors.
The perpetrators of psychological wounds and the stalkers who would steal their kids' innocence are probably not strangers, the study reported; more likely, they are the spiteful, sulking or silly friends the kids hang out with. And their own offspring may play a significant role in the misbehavior too.
Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, "are the most frequent threats that minors face," the report says.