A study by Internet Solutions for Kids and the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center concludes social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are less endangering than people expect.
The child health researchers claim solicitation and harassment is much more likely in chat rooms and over IM:
Many may think social networking sites are the most likely place for kids to be harassed online. DailyTech reported in December of 2007 that a family had sued MySpace after a teenage girl killed herself after being the victim of cyber bullying on the site. MySpace competitor Facebook was also the target of legal action last year when the New York Attorney General filed a subpoena against the site due to allegations of sexual solicitation of minors.
Contrary to the image these types of cases give social networking sites, the new study shows that young teens are much more likely to be harassed via instant messages or in chat rooms than on social networking sites.
Of the 1,600 kids between 10 and 15 years of age surveyed across the nation, 4% reported unwanted sexual solicitation and 9% reported being harassed on social networking sites. The study respondents reported 59% more solicitations were received over instant messengers and 19% more in chat rooms. Overall kids were 96% more likely to be harassed in instant messages than on a social networking site.
The study authors use this data to illustrate to parents that they need to be aware of what their children are doing online and not simply focus on social networking sites. The authors also point out that the vast majority of children using social networking, instant messages or chat rooms will never be the victims of harassment of unwanted solicitations.