Online solicitation of kids is down

MySpace is not the dark alley of the Internet after all, but impact of porn and cyberbullying is up.

With the explosion of social networking, kids are increasingly exposed to child predators, right? There's just about nothing more dangerous than MySpace, is there?

Not so, finds a new study by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, according to a report in USA Today.

About 13% (3.2 million) of 10-17 year olds surveyed said in 2005 that they had received an unwanted request to engage in sexual activity or conversations in the previous year from either adults or other children. Five years earlier, it was 19%.

Researcher David Finkelhor attributes improvements to education campaigns stressing "stranger danger" and less time spent in chat rooms "where creepy people hang out," Finkelhor says.

The study also explodes the notion that its just middle-aged creeps pursuing kids. Some 43% of solicitations were from others under age 18.

Internet researcher Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, says the new research reinforces what he has seen: "There simply is not the volume of predators on MySpace that people imagine."

Years of filters and hopefully increased supervision probably haven't counteracted the growth in broadband and the explosion of spam and the porn industry. The study found 9% of kids were "very upset" by seeing porn, up from 6% five years ago.

More troubling is the explosion in cyberbullying.

Finkelhor says more attention must be paid to online harassment. "We were concerned that not only were kids being harassed more, but they were doing more harassing."

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