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Most Internet Sex Offenders Target Teens, Not Kids
Date:2/22/2008

federal, state and local law enforcement officials who have expertise in investigating Internet-initiated sex crimes. The data revealed almost 75 percent of victims who met sex offenders in person did so more than once.

"This is a very interesting study and supports other previous research. My only caveat is that it was primarily based on phone interviews, and the researchers were reporting what they were told by the young people," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

The investigators identified several behaviors that appear to make teens more likely to receive sexual contact from predators, including placing people they didn't know on their instant messaging buddy lists, talking about sex online with strangers, and engaging in rude or nasty chats online. The teens most vulnerable to online sex offenders are more likely to be risk takers and to have histories of sexual or physical abuse and family problems. In addition, the researchers concluded boys who are gay or are questioning their sexuality may be at higher risk of sex crimes initiated on the Internet than other groups.

The study indicates MySpace and Facebook, social networking Web sites popular with teens, do not appear to increase the risk of adolescents being victimized by sexual predators. The same conclusion was reached recently in a study by one of the researchers of this latest article; that earlier work appeared in the February issue of Pediatrics. Instead, talking online about sex to strangers in chat rooms or with instant messaging heightened the risk of exposure to sex offenders.

"I would caution that it is not clear the Internet has increased the level of risk in young people, although perhaps it has changed the venue for some of these situations with sexual predators. There has certainly been plenty of statutory sex offenses going on before the popularity of the Internet, and it may have migrate
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