One in Four Kids Sexually Harassed by Online “Friends”

It’s not just strangers who target children online. Kids’ own friends are sexually harassing them over the Internet, finds new research led by a Michigan State University cybercrime expert.

About 1 in 4 children said they were pressured by their friends online to talk about sex when they didn’t want to, according to the study of 439 middle- and high-school students aged 12 to 16.

“This is not to downplay the danger of pedophiles acting online, but it does draw attention to the potential threat of child sexual victimization by the people our kids are closest to, the people they spend the greatest amount of time with online,” said Thomas J. Holt, MSU associate professor of criminal justice.

The study, which appears online in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, is one of the first to examine the factors of online child sexual victimization.

Girls, and kids with low self-control, were more likely to be sexually harassed online. But the biggest surprise was the finding that 24 percent of study participants were sexually harassed over the Internet.

Parental-filtering software or keeping the computer in an open space such as the family living room did not seem to reduce the problem.

“So it seems like this is not something that can be technologically solved, at least for the moment,” Holt said. “Instead, it has to be something that’s resolved through engaged conversation between parent and child.”

Image shows a girl search on a cell phone.

Girls, and kids with low self-control, were more likely to be sexually harassed online. But the biggest surprise was the finding that 24 percent of study participants were sexually harassed over the Internet. Image is for illustrative purposes only.

Such conversations can be difficult, particularly when they deal with sex. “But parents need to have that talk with their kids about what they are doing online and what people are asking them to do online,” Holt said. “That kind of open dialogue is one of the best things they can do to minimize the risk.”

About this psychology research

Source: Andy Henion – Michigan State University
Image Source: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Abstract for “Identifying Predictors of Unwanted Online Sexual Conversations Among Youth Using a Low Self-Control and Routine Activity Framework” by Thomas J. Holt, Adam M. Bossler, Rebecca Malinski, and David C. May in Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. Published online December 28 2015 doi:10.1177/1043986215621376


Abstract

Identifying Predictors of Unwanted Online Sexual Conversations Among Youth Using a Low Self-Control and Routine Activity Framework

The development of the Internet and computer-mediated communications (CMC), such as email and instant messaging, has transformed the lives of young people. The ability to communicate in near real time with others provides beneficial social impact, though it has also created unique opportunities for victimization. Research has focused on certain forms of sexual activity online, such as sexting, but little study has been devoted to coercion to engage in sexual conversations as a form of sexual harassment. This study examined this phenomenon in a sample of middle and high school youth in Kentucky, applying an integrated low self-control and routine activity framework. The findings demonstrated that youth who were victimized were more likely to have low levels of self-control, view pornography, have peers who engaged others in sexual conversation online, and be female. The relationship between gender and victimization was examined in depth, along with the implications of this study for our understanding of the utility of routine activity theory and the general theory of crime.

“Identifying Predictors of Unwanted Online Sexual Conversations Among Youth Using a Low Self-Control and Routine Activity Framework” by Thomas J. Holt, Adam M. Bossler, Rebecca Malinski, and David C. May in Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. Published online December 28 2015 doi:10.1177/1043986215621376

Feel free to share this Neuroscience News.
Join our Newsletter
I agree to have my personal information transferred to AWeber for Neuroscience Newsletter ( more information )
Sign up to receive the latest neuroscience headlines and summaries sent to your email daily from NeuroscienceNews.com
We hate spam and only use your email to contact you about newsletters. We do not sell email addresses. You can cancel your subscription any time.