According to a new survey, social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook are much safer for kids than other kinds of Internet sites.
The survey, which examined 1,588 children between the ages of 10 and 15 years old, found that 28 per cent had been harassed via a social networking site, as against 33 per cent for the Internet as a whole.
AdvertisementThe survey was conducted by Internet Solutions for Kids in California and the University of New Hampshire, and is documented in the prestigious journal Pediatrics.
The survey results give that online harassment of children is most prevalent through instant messaging i.e. 55 per cent.
"Chat rooms are a real risk for kids," says Alannah and Madeline Foundation chief executive officer Dr Slocombe .
"At least with social networking sites, children have got ways of confirming the kids that they talk to, to their own invited group."
The survey also discovered that one in seven children were aware of an unwanted sexual solicitation online in the past year. This is against only four per cent reporting a similar incident via a social networking site.
Dr Slocombe urges children and their parents to be proactive in how they manage themselves online.
"I wouldn't put up personal information (such as an) address, phone number or any other personal details," she emphasizes.
"Parents also need to be responsible for their kids' safety online, just like a parent is responsible for other safety matters such as drug abuse and safe sex", she adds.
One of the most surprising findings of the survey was that among the children who reported unwanted sexual solicitation, most were in the ken that it came from an adult.
"In the majority of cases referred to law enforcement (95 per cent), adult offenders are honest about being an adult, and in 79 per cent of the cases, they are honest about their intentions to have sex with the youth," the report gave .
The survey's authors opine that cracking down on social networking sites might not be the most worthwhile method of combating cyberbullying and sexual solicitation.
They say programs should concentrate "instead on mental health interventions for vulnerable youth and Internet safety education that apply to all types of online communication."
"You can put all the filters in, you can have closed networking sites, but basically you need to make kids feel less vulnerable and they need to have self-protective behaviors," Dr Slocombe underscores.