Children are getting sexually abused online not only by strangers but also by their friends, revealed a new study.
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 led by a Michigan State University cybercrime expert.
"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.
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. Instead, it has to be something that's resolved through engaged conversation between parent and child," Holt said.
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. That kind of open dialogue is one of the best things they can do to minimize the risk," Holt said.