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Thursday, 27th November 2008

Online Threats to Youth: Solicitation, Harassment, and Problematic Content

Online Threats to Youth: Solicitation, Harassment, and Problematic Content (PDF; 395 KB)

In the United States, youth have rapidly integrated the Internet into their daily lives (Center for the Digital Future, 2008; Madden, 2006). The recent rise of social media has provided youth with a powerful space for socializing, learning, and engaging in public life (Ito et al., Forthcoming; boyd, 2007; Gross, 2004; Palfrey & Gasser, 2008). The majority of parents say the Internet is a “positive influence” in their children’s lives, while only 7% say it is a “negative influence” (Rideout, 2007).

While there is little doubt that social media can be beneficial for youth, grave concerns have emerged with respect to the dangers posed by networked technology. Many of the contemporary fears parallel those of earlier technologies (Nye, 2007; Springhall, 1998; Potter & Potter, 2001) and unmediated public spaces where youth congregate (Valentine, 2004).

Recently, a “moral panic” (Cohen, 1972; Goode & Ben-Yehuda, 1994) erupted over the potential dangers presented by social network sites (Marwick, 2008; Cassell & Cramer, 2007). As with earlier moral panics (Victor, 1993), media-driven fear mongering was disproportionate to the number of problematic incidents, the actual threats youth face, and the data about youth risks.

That said, there are serious questions that must be addressed to provide an accurate picture of the online environment: 1. What threats do youth face when going online? 2. Where and when are youth most at risk? 3. Which youth are at risk and what makes some youth more at risk than others? 4. How are different threats interrelated?

The goal of this literature review is to map out what is currently known about the risks youth face and the youth who face them to further discussions about online safety. We believe that the first step in helping youth is to understand the problems that are occurring. The best solutions will be those that address real dangers, real risks, and the interrelated dynamics that put youth at risk. We do not discuss potential solutions, but we feel as though the research described in this document is essential for those who are looking to develop solutions.

Source: Internet Safety Technical Task Force


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