Survey Identifies Teen Online Behaviors Associated With Victimization
By Lori Wright, Media Relations
February 7, 2007
Teens who talk to strangers online are more likely to become
victims of online harassment than those who share their personal
information on the Internet, according to researchers at the
UNH Crimes against Children Research Center. The research is
published today in the February issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent
Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
In addition, engaging in an overall pattern of various online
behaviors is more closely linked to online interpersonal victimization
than any specific behavior alone.
Online interpersonal victimization is defined as unwanted
sexual solicitation or harassment, according to background
information in the article. Approximately 9 percent of online
youth are targets of harassment and 13 percent are targets
of unwanted sexual solicitation each year. These incidents
may lead to psychosocial problems such as depression and physical
assault by peers.
David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research
Center, and his UNH colleagues Kimberly Mitchell and Janis
Wolak analyzed data from a 2005 telephone survey conducted
on 1,497 youth in the United States aged 10 to 17 who had used
the Internet at least once a month for the past six months.
Participants’ average age was 14.2, about half were female
and 76.2 percent identified themselves as white. Most came
from well-educated households with a high annual income.
The researchers examined the frequency of nine online behaviors
believed to increase the odds of online victimization including
posting personal information online, sending personal information
online, harassing or embarrassing someone, making rude or nasty
comments, meeting someone online, having people known only
online on their buddy list, talking about sex with someone
known only online, purposely visiting an X-rated Web site and
downloading images from a file-sharing program.
A total of 1,125 or 75 percent of the respondents engaged
in at least one of nine online behaviors. One in four or 28.2
percent of the youth engaged in four or more different types
of online behavior in the previous year. Those who engaged
in four types of online behaviors were 11 times more likely
to report online interpersonal victimization than those reporting
none of the online behaviors.
“Most Internet safety advocates suggest discouraging
youth from sharing personal information and talking with unknown
people online,” according to the UNH researchers. However,
the study found that talking with people only known online
under certain conditions is associated with online interpersonal
victimization, but sharing information is not. “Aggressive
behavior in the form of making rude or nasty comments or frequently
embarrassing others, meeting people in multiple ways and talking
about sex online with unknown people were significantly related
to online interpersonal victimization,” they said.
“With one in five youth who use the Internet reporting
an unwanted interpersonal victimization in one year’s
time, identifying effective Internet safety messages is an
adolescent health issue of great importance,” the UNH
researchers said. “Pediatricians and other child and
adolescent health professionals should help parents assess
their children’s online behaviors globally in addition
to focusing on specific types of behaviors.”
The UNH Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC) works
to combat crimes against children by providing high-quality
research and statistics to the public, policy makers, law enforcement
personnel, and other child welfare practitioners. CCRC is concerned
with research about the nature of crimes including child abduction,
homicide, rape, assault, and physical and sexual abuse as well
as their impact.
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