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Social Networking Sites Safer Than IM or Chat Rooms
Date:2/1/2008

Little sexual solicitation, harassment occur on MySpace and Facebook, study finds

FRIDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- While social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook have been singled out as places where teens could face sexual harassment, most of the unwanted solicitation actually happens in chat rooms and via instant messaging, a new study finds.

Even there, only 15 percent of children experience unwanted sexual solicitation and only a third report being harassed online, according to a new study in the February issue of Pediatrics.

"There has been a recent concern about the risks posed by social networking to young people," said lead researcher Michele Ybarra, founder of Internet Solutions for Kids, a company that helps design safe Web sites for children. "But we found that instant messaging was more frequently cited than social networking sites as places for unwanted sexual solicitation and harassment," she said. "And chat rooms were more frequently cited than social networking sites."

In the study, Ybarra's team collected data on 1,588 children aged 10 to 15 years old. In a survey, the children were asked about their online experiences over the past year. Among these children, 15 percent said they had an unwanted sexual solicitation. Only one-fourth of these occurred on a social networking site, Ybarra noted.

In addition, 33 percent said they were harassed online. About one-fourth of the incidents occurred on a social networking site.

However, 43 percent of unwanted sexual solicitations occurred via instant messaging, and 32 percent occurred in chat rooms. Harassment was most common with instant messaging, which accounted for 55 percent, the researchers found.

Ybarra thinks that rather than focusing on the technology, the focus should be placed on the children themselves. "We need to stop worrying about social networking sites and pay more attention to what
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