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NYT: Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown
Warning to webmasters, however: Perception trumps reality

 3:54 pm on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.

The findings ran counter to popular perceptions of online dangers as reinforced by depictions in the news media like NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series. One attorney general was quick to criticize the group’s report.


I've worked with professionals in education who operate in the real world and learned one important lesson: Parents love their children. They are not rational about it at all. This is hard-wired into their DNA. If they "feel" there is a threat to their children's well-being, they will act on it.

This is why, just to pick one example, we use SSL on our web sites in collecting basic info from parents--with no credit card or other data that could be damaging in play.

When serving families, you can't offer enough assurances about safety.

And there are threats from abuse:
But the report concluded that the problem of bullying among children, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults.



 11:14 pm on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

The children who become prey online have only the parents to blame. I recall seeing that nanny 911 show who had the 3 teenage girls all on myspace, and that crap... who had no idea what was going on, or barely even knew how to operate a computer.

unfortunately computers are now part of this generations life and lifestyle. I dont want to hear any lame claims of ignorance, and computers are too complicated for parents to try to understand...

if your kid is exposed to any part of the internet you better know whats going on... i feel sorry for parents who are trapped in their present day jobs who have no idea what a computer does or what it is capable of doing... those parents who dont know how to track their kids computer habits and such.... pathetic.

i look at my kids all the time... (granted my oldest is only 9, but thats about the age they start gaining some independence) and say i know everything you do on that computer... EVERYTHING... so dont do anything dumb..... and if you come across something scary, or obscene, or bad by accident, stop, turn off the monitor, and come and get me or your mother immediately so you dont get any deeper ...

common sense people...would you let your kid hang out with a crack head?


 1:15 am on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

The threats to children online really are serious. Not just the threat of sexual predators but of other material they could dig up.
  • Religious extremism
  • #*$!ographic material
  • Political propaganda
  • Advocates of deficient moral positions

    Many of these are not something which can be legislated against; however they are things that parents recognise that children are particularly at risk of being negatively affected by.

    So, I agree with Tony about the need for a parent to watch and review the use of the internet; but I also believe in the need for safer environments to be created. Today, a couple of good news sources (e.g. BBC News and the New York Times, Wikipedia and a few reference (dictionary, thesaurus, atlas) type sites should be sufficient for most pre-teenage children. Scratch the rest of the net; the risk:reward ratio is just too low (and if it's likely to be of value to the child it's probably been transcribed on Wikipedia anyway).

  • lorax

     1:56 am on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

    Crumbs. One of my clients wrote a book about bullying and shares with me many of the stories from the schools that use his book as part of their education on the subject. It amazes me how mean kids can be!


     2:14 am on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

    ..Parents love their children. They are not rational about it at all. This is hard-wired into their DNA. If they "feel" there is a threat to their children's well-being, they will act on it...

    Even though hundreds of studies have shown that it is, in fact, irrational I see it everyday, even in my own family.

    For some reason, people - and parents especially - focus on the things LEAST likely to hurt their kids.

    One study supposedly showed (and it sounds plausible), that all the parents driving their kids to school was actually causing them more harm, because for far too many that was the only excercise they got. They also concluded the kids were several times more likely to die in a car accident getting there than by any bogey men they might meet on the way.

    And the internet is the bogeyman of the moment.

    [edited by: Wlauzon at 2:16 am (utc) on Jan. 15, 2009]


     10:27 am on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

    I dont want to hear any lame claims of ignorance, and computers are too complicated for parents to try to understand...

    If you are young enough to have grandchildren who are still at school, let alone children, then you have no excuse. Computers have been around for so long that people have retired who used them for all their working lives.


     10:13 pm on Jan 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

    Is this stuff really still being discussed? Hold on, one second...

    Yep, just as I thought. "protect your kids from non family safe websites" as a search in Google comes up with a bunch of filters and content on how to protect your kids.

    It is not the kids faults, the study should not be about the kids. The kids know what they are doing (unfortunately), which is the problem. If you don't want your child hanging out with someone, you stop them and tell them why. If you don't want your child to have something, you take it and tell them why.

    I don't see why this is a question or even a study anymore. It is pretty simple. Educate the parents about how to search Google for help, if they are so unfortunate to not know how to already. If they already know how to use a computer and search for help, then punish the parents for being stupid.

    [edited by: phranque at 11:57 pm (utc) on Jan. 19, 2009]
    [edit reason] author's request [/edit]

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