Coinciding with the report from Pew Internet about the number of teens on MySpace and Facebook is this article by Pete Reilly over at the District Administrator blog. Entitled “The Facts about Online Sex Abuse and Schools“, he points out that according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
“Four (4) percent of all youth Internet users in 2005 said online solicitors asked them for nude or sexually explicit photographs of themselves.”
So, let’s see, how many young people does this really mean? According to this 2005 Pew Internet report, there were 21 million teens (ages 12-17) in the U.S in 2005. According to this recent Pew Internet report (2006) about teens and social networking, there are 55% of American children that have a social networking profile. Even though these reports are a year apart, we can estimate the actual numbers. If you do the math, this equates to roughly 11.5 million young people who have a social networking profile. Now, if four percent (4%) of 11.5 million young people have received an unwanted “sexually explicit” request, that means that roughly 460,000 young people received this unwanted request. Reilly explains further:
“The amazing and sad statistic that is so often overlooked and rarely discussed is that 95% of Child Abuse and Sexual Abuse is perpetrated by family members.”
So, according to these reports, this means that 5% of young people received unwanted solicitation for pictures from a non-family member. This translates to 21,850 young people receiving an unwanted online solication from a non-family member. I’m not sure how this “online solicitation” percentage compares with overall face-to-face child abuse cases. As Reilly points out, the media has done a great job of publicizing every instance of a young person meeting an older person online and then agreeing to meet him in person (and the negative results of meeting an online predator in person). Obviously, we want child abuse or child exploitation online or in person to be zero. In the article, Reilly concludes:
“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.”
Excellent information for educators to have as we examine the types of filtering that is needed in our schools. Pete has more information about this topic on his blog as well. Principal Kimberly Moritz at Gowanda High School in central New York also blogs about this article as it applies in her school district.