Study: One in Five Kids Solicited Online

ByABC News
June 19, 2001, 3:25 PM

June 19 -- One in five children between 10 and 17 years of age have reported receiving an unwanted sexual solicitation while online, a new study finds.

The solicitation mostly occurred in chat rooms and through e-mail.

But the kids are generally all right, the study says. The researchers found teenagers are savvy when it comes to Internet use and while the overtures disturbed them, none of the children in the study encountered any violence.

"There were so many anecdotal stories coming out in the media and parents are concerned about safety on the Internet," said one of the lead authors, Kimberly Mitchell of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire."But there wasn't a tangible study that looked at how often solicitation occurs."

Some Behavior is Risky

Researchers conducted phone interviews with 1,501 teenagers between the ages of 10 and 17 who regularly use the Internet. They also interviewed the children's parents. After analyzing the data, the researchers identified certain characteristics that put youth at more risk for solicitation.

"In terms of risk, girls and older youth [14 to 17 years old] were more likely to be solicited," the authors wrote in the study which appears in the June 20 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Risk was higher for youngsters who were troubled, such as those who experienced a negative life event such as a death in the family, moved to a new home, had separated or divorced parents or had a parent who lost a job.

The risk was also higher for children who used the Internet more frequently, participated in chat rooms or engaged in risky behavior online as defined by the authors that might include posting personal information, making rude or nasty comments, talking about sex with someone who they never before met in person and going to X-rated sites on purpose.

Some Children Upset by Overtures

"Any child who is mature enough to be on the Internet and into chat rooms where that sort of discussion is likely, or even possible, parents should be talking to these kids about what these kind of approaches mean," said Lewis Lipsitt, professor emeritus of psychology at Brown University in Providence, R.I.