It is rare these days for one to find a teenager who does not have a Facebook account. Young people today have nearly unlimited access to the internet, and therefore to the world, at their fingertips. To them this represents individuality and freedom of expression. To parents it should represent something entirely different: danger.
As a parent, do you really have any idea who the people are with which your teen is interacting? According to an article by the University of Florida, there is more to be concerned about than someone hogging the computer all of the time.
Online sexual solicitation is a form of sexual harassment that occurs over the internet. Incidents of online sexual solicitation include: exposure to pornography; being asked to discuss sex online and/or do something sexual; or requests to disclose personal information. This can start when an adult or peer initiates an online nonsexual relationship with a child or adolescent, builds trust, and seduces him or her into sexual acts. Several studies have found that
- 30% of teen girls who used the Internet frequently had been sexually harassed while they were in a chat room.
- 37% of teens (male and female) received links to sexually explicit content online.
- 30% of teens have talked about meeting someone they met online.
- 19% knew a friend who was harassed or asked about sex online by a stranger.
- 33% of teen girls and 18% of teen boys had been asked about sexual topics online. (Dewey, 2002; Polly Klaas Foundation, 2006)
If your teenager spends a lot of time online, there is a good chance that he or she could interact with someone who will attempt to expose them to or discuss things which are sexually inappropriate. Talk to your son or daughter about this danger, and if necessary check their internet history to keep track of their online activities. If all else fails, restrict [GASP] internet time. Taking these steps may not be fun, but they can save your teen from a horrific experience.