Nearly 1 in 3 teen girls reported meeting strangers offline, but a history of abuse greatly increased the danger
A new study in the journal Pediatrics found that teenage girls who had experienced abuse in real life were more likely to exhibit “high risk” online behavior, such as responding to online sexual advances and meeting Internet “friends” offline.
Researchers found that nearly a third of all teenage girls had met people offline after becoming online friends. And alarmingly, 1 in 10 experienced some kind of exploitation — ranging from unwanted sexual advances to rape — during that offline interaction.
Jennie Noll, a psychology professor at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, had been studying abused teens when she began noticing their online profiles were different. “They would, more often than some other kids, post racy photos of themselves or sexual utterances,” Noll told LiveScience.
As reported by LiveScience:
To test that observation, she and her colleagues studied 130 girls ages 14 to 17 who had seen Child Protective Services for sexual and physical abuse and neglect, as well as 125 demographically similar teenagers with no abuse history. The girls answered questions about online behavior. A year later, Noll asked how many of the girls had met an Internet friend offline.
Thirty percent of girls (both abused and not) reported an in-person encounter with someone they first met online. About 10 percent of the girls experienced something negative — often creepy sexual overtures or intimidation during that meet-up. Only one prosecuted rape occurred as a result of the offline meetings, Noll said.
Consistent with her anecdotal experience, abused teens were likelier than non-abused teens to have racy social media profiles or report fielding sexual advances from strangers — behaviors that were separately tied to meeting strangers offline.
But as Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy lawyer, also told LiveScience, it’s unlikely that the study’s findings apply to the general population. “Straight strangers? No way. I just don’t see that as happening. The kids have gotten very sophisticated about this issue,” Aftab said.
In general population surveys, very few teens report meeting strangers in person. And of the small subset who do, so few are sexually assaulted that researchers can’t draw meaningful conclusions from available data.
The study also found that talking to teenagers about their online activity can greatly reduce risky behavior, but with a majority of parents in the dark about their kid’s Internet lives — a recent study found that 70 percent of teens go out of their way to hide this information — that’s no easy task.
More Related Stories
- Guantánamo prisoner on hunger strike cries for help on Twitter
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- 3 possible solutions to international tax avoidance
- Wikipedia's anti-Pagan crusade
- Could hackers destroy the U.S. power grid?
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- California judge cites "Star Trek," stuns copyright trolls
- Twitter beefs up security measures
- Man arrested for sending Craigslist sex party to neighbor's house
- Teenagers care more about online privacy than you think
- The Maker kids are alright
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- Cyber attacks could cause the next world war
- Snapchat is secretly storing your photos
- Apple's biggest sin: Popularity
- Facebook's hate speech problem
- Amazon set to launch fine-art gallery
- Twitter torches Dan Brown's "Inferno"
- Looting in Oklahoma?
- Wikipedia cleans up its mess
- You are less beautiful than you think
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11