Internet Safety Risk Real for Youths

One in 25 youths on the InternetB say they've been
asked to make and send sexual pictures of themselves over the Internet, a new
study shows.

The study appears in the August edition of the Journal of Adolescent

Data came from a 2005 survey of 1,500 U.S. adolescents aged 10-17.
Counselors interviewed the youths by phone.

Three hundred youths -- one in five -- reported interpersonal online
victimization -- defined as unwanted sexual solicitations or other types of
harassment -- within the past year.

Among the victimized participants, 65 youths said their victimizer had asked
them for sexual pictures.

"Only one youth actually complied," write the researchers, who
included Kimberly Mitchell, PhD, of the Crimes Against Children Research Center
at the University of New Hampshire.

Child pornography is illegal. It's against the law to request or supply
sexual pictures of children via the Internet or by other means.

Internet Safety Warning Signs

Youths were more likely to be asked for sexual pictures of themselves when
they were communicating with an adult they had met online who had sent the
youth a sexual picture of himself or herself and had attempted to contact the
youth offline (by phone or in person).

Youths should tell a parent or the police about those online safety
incidents, Mitchell's team notes.

"Online conversations that involve the requests for or actual exchange
of sexual pictures and attempts at offline contact are clear warning signs that
youth should disclose the situation to a parent or law enforcement, both
because requests to minors for sexual pictures are illegal and also because
there is a real risk for additional sex crimes in these cases," write the

Abused African-American girls were particularly likely to have been asked
for sexual pictures, the study also shows.

Mitchell and colleagues urge parents and pediatricians to become aware of
the issue and to be prepared to talk to teens about it.

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By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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