The first report that I have read, Internet-initiated sex crimes against minors: implications for prevention based on findings from a national study, is a comprehensive study designed to examine internet-initiated sex offenses of persons aged 17 and younger in the USA. The data was collected from surveying a random sample of law enforcement agencies in 2001 and 2002.
Victims in these crimes were primarily 13- through 15-year-old teenage girls (75%) who met adult offenders (76% older than 25) in Internet chat rooms. Most offenders did not deceive victims about the fact that they were adults who were interested in sexual relationships. Most victims met and had sex with the adults on more than one occasion. Half of the victims were described as being in love with or feeling close bonds with the offenders. Almost all cases with male victims involved male offenders. Offenders used violence in 5% of the episodes.
The conclusion of the study reinforced the all the concepts we already know. Acknowledging that these online relationships exist and having frank discussions about inappropriate relationships and the detrimental effects of these to developing youth.
While this does not address my original question, Will opening up student ePortfolios to a global audience increase the chances of inappropriate contact? It does demonstrate, in this study at least, that no child under 12 had any internet-initiated crime committed against them. 91% of crimes were initiated in chat rooms, instant messaging or email.
Of further interest to me was that prevention messages that are commonly publicised often do not take into account what is actually happening with youth social life and Internet practice. Simply telling them not to do it is not enough, the question is why are they doing it?
Â At the same time, one study has demonstrated that youth were more likely to form online friendships or romances if they were troubled or, depending on gender, had high levels of conflict or low levels of communication with parents. Adolescents with these sorts of problems may be more vulnerable to online victimization.
So the question still remains, will our students be at risk if their portfolios are open to all? Data from this study would suggest that that would not be the case.