The parental fears of the online activities by teens are wildly overblown due to misinformation and a sense of fear, a new book suggests.
For her book, Microsoft and Harvard researcher danah boyd (she insists on a lower-case name), she interviewed more than 150 teens, as well as parents, teachers, and other authority figures from 2007-10, the New York Post reported.
Part of the irrational fear of online predators, boyd said, speaks to the difficulties some adults have of admitting certain facts about sexual abuse.
She said that the public is not comfortable facing the harrowing reality that strangers are unlikely perpetrators.
Most acts of sexual violence against children, she said, occur in their own homes by people that those children trust. Internet-initiated sexual assaults are rare.
She also notes that, "sex crimes against minors have been steadily declining since 1992, [suggesting] that the Internet is not creating a new plague."
Parental anxiety about children's time online results from other misperceptions as well, including about how teens perceive social media in general.
Many parents fear, for example, that teens have no sense of privacy because they seem to reveal everything about their lives online.
But boyd found that teens have a far more acute sense of it than many adults realize.
When teens seek privacy, they, like most people, seek it "in relation to those who hold power over them" - which mostly means teachers and parents.
As for all the time teens spend online, an amount that worries parents who see it as all-encompassing, boyd says that most teens would much prefer socializing in real life.