The facts about sexual predators online and where abuse really occurs
January 11th, 2007


If you are fearful about the potential for sexual predators online, concerned about whether the fear is justified, want to know whether it is really dangerous for your children to participate in online discussions, you ought to read this factual and thoughtful post by danah boyd on a few more thoughts on child abuse, sexual predators, and the moral panic. boyd’s blog post draws upon an informative and evidence-based article by Peter Reilly entitled The Facts About Online Sex Abuse and Schools. Synopsis: parents are by far the largest single source of sexual abuse, and online predators are way way down the list of dangers — and sexual abuse of children appears to be declining. An important quote from Reilly’s article:

When we slice the “less than five percent pie” into these smaller pieces, the risk gets much, much smaller. Of course, statistics aren’t going to matter much if you are the parent of a child who has had an online incident, or the leader of school that has experienced one.

The question is, “Are we going to take a ‘zero risk’ approach to using technology and the tools of the Web?”

We don’t take a “zero risk” approach with our sports programs where the chance of injury, paralysis, and, in rare cases, death, is always present. We don’t take that approach with field trips where students travel to museums and historical sites in locations where they might be touched by crime. We don’t take that approach with recess on our playgrounds, or transporting our kids to and from school.

We can never eliminate all risk; but there are ways to maximize our students’ safety while using these incredibly powerful tools. Each tool needs to be analyzed individually to ascertain its benefits and the specific risks it might present. From there, thoughtful people can find solutions to the student safety issues that may arise.

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