With the standard cautions about accepting any one report/study/poll as conclusive proof of anything, this is still something we as educators need to pay attention to.
A study from the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, a project created by the Attorneys General from 49 states, found that the solicitation of children on the web has been greatly exaggerated.
While even one child being solicited is bad, the researchers found that the few who were, often had other issues affecting their online conduct.
The task force, led by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, looked at scientific data on online sexual predators and found that children and teenagers were unlikely to be propositioned by adults online. In the cases that do exist, the report said, teenagers are typically willing participants and are already at risk because of poor home environments, substance abuse or other problems.
The report also says that online bullying is a far bigger problem and that social networks are not the “horribly bad neighborhoods” they have been portrayed in the media.
As you might expect, the task force was charged to determine “technologies that might play a role in enhancing safety for children online”.
Also to be expected, they found that the technologies now in place “do not appear to offer substantial help in protecting minors from sexual solicitation.”
Ok, whether or not you accept the findings of this particular study and other recent research that arrives at similar conclusions, I would hope that one thing is becoming clear.
Technology will not be the solution to protect kids on the web. There is no magic switch to flip that will make it happen.
Instead it’s going to take a lot of hard work on the part of the adults in the lives of children to help them cope with their real problems and understand how to live and work safely online.