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30 Percent of U.S. Teen Girls Meet Up With Online Strangers
Date:1/14/2013

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly a third of American teenage girls say that at some point they've met up with people with whom their only prior contact was online, new research reveals.

For more than a year, the study tracked online and offline activity among more than 250 girls aged 14 to 17 years and found that 30 percent followed online acquaintance with in-person contact, raising concerns about high-risk behavior that might ensue when teens make the leap from social networking into real-world encounters with strangers.

Girls with a history of neglect or physical or sexual abuse were particularly prone to presenting themselves online (both in images and verbally) in ways that can be construed as sexually explicit and provocative. Doing so, researchers warned, increases their risk of succumbing to the online advances of strangers whose goal is to prey upon such girls in person.

"Statistics show that in and of itself, the Internet is not as dangerous a place as, for example, walking through a really bad neighborhood," said study lead author Jennie Noll, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati and director of research in behavioral medicine and clinical psychology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "The vast majority of online meetings are benign.

"On the other hand, 90 percent of our adolescents have daily access to the Internet, and there is a risk surrounding offline meetings with strangers, and that risk exists for everyone," Noll added. "So even if just 1 percent of them end up having a dangerous encounter with a stranger offline, it's still a very big problem.

"On top of that, we found that kids who are particularly sexual and provocative online do receive more sexual advances from others online, and are more likely to meet these strangers, who, after sometimes many months of online interaction, they might not even view
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