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Youth Exposure to Unwanted Internet Sexual Encounters Drops

TUESDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Increased public awareness and improved Internet security may be among the reasons why child and teen exposure to unwanted online sexual solicitations and pornography has declined in the United States, a new study indicates.

However, reports of online harassment have increased, according to researchers at the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center.

Their analysis of data from national surveys of youth ageD 10 to 17 conducted in 2000, 2005 and 2010 showed that the percentage of young people who received unwanted online sexual requests fell from 13 percent in 2005 to 9 percent in 2010, and the number receiving unwanted online pornography declined from 34 percent to 23 percent.

But the researchers also found that incidents of online harassment reported by young people rose from 9 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2010.

The study was published online Dec. 15 in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

"The constant news about Internet dangers may give the impression that all Internet problems have been getting worse for youth but actually that is not the case. The online environment may be improving," lead author Lisa Jones, research associate professor of psychology, said in a university news release.

She noted that youth exposure to unwanted online sexual solicitations has fallen 50 percent since 2000, when the problem first came to the public's attention.

"The arrests, the publicity and the education may have tamped down the sexual soliciting online," study co-author Kimberly Mitchell, research associate professor of psychology, said in the release. "The more effective safety and screening features incorporated into websites and networks may have helped reduce the unwanted encounters with pornography."

More information

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation offers a parent's guide to Internet safety.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of New Hampshire, news release, Dec. 15, 2011

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