MONDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Kids' exposure to online attacks and deviant behavior appears to have leveled off, but as more kids socialize by cellphone, sexual and other bothersome text messages are on the rise, a new study finds.
Young people use technology to converse and connect with one another and, as with face-to-face methods, "there are positives and negatives," said lead study author Michele Ybarra, president and research director of Internet Solutions for Kids, a nonprofit research organization in San Clemente, Calif.
The good news is "our data don't support that things are getting worse online in frequency or intensity" in terms of harassment, bullying and unwanted sexual experiences, she said.
The study looked at violence exposure from computers and text messaging (but not from accessing websites from a smartphone). It also measured young people's reactions -- how they rated their own level of distress.
About one-third of teens and preteens reported being very or extremely distressed from Internet-based sexual experiences, while between 20 percent and 25 percent felt that way because of online harassment.
For the study, researchers used online surveys to reach almost 1,600 adolescents, ages 10 to 15, starting in 2006, with yearly follow-ups in 2007 and 2008.
"Unwanted sexual solicitation" by text messaging was 1.9 times higher in 2008 than in 2006, a significant increase. Participants reported whether within the past year "someone tried to get me to talk about sex when I did not want to" or "asked me for sexual information about myself" or "to do something sexual that I did not want to do."
The survey looked at perpetration -- attacking -- as well as victimization, asking whether adolescents had sent unwanted text messages or pictures of a sexual nature, commonly known as "sexting." Odds of doing so increased between 2007 and 2008, b
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