Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Latest PEW Study Offers No Surprises

The topic of the latest PEW Internet & American Life Project report is Teens and Online Stranger Contact. Among the non-surprises were the facts that teens who create social profiles or post photos online are more likely to be contacted online by people they do not know and that girls are more likely to have unwanted encounters than boys.

It states, "Teens who use social networking sites to flirt are more likely to be contacted by people they do not know once other factors are controlled for, although a similar effect is not seen in teens who use social networking sites to make new friends."

My first impression was, "Doh!" It brought to mind Senator Proxmire's Golden Fleece Award a few year back that was given to a study that found out why toddlers fell off tricycles. They spend $300,000 to find out it was a lack of muscular coordination.

While this kind of information about teens is hardly in the same class as the Golden Fleece Award, it did cause me to reflect further on the accuracy and interpretation of the study. On one hand, it along with other findings in the report, reinforces my contention and other emerging studies that teens are generally safe online and that the profile of a teen who is not safe online is very similar to a teen that is not safe off-line.

On the other hand, the study doesn't seem to address the role of chat-rooms in stranger contact. It seems to me that the same teens who use social networks to flirt and encounter strangers, may well use chat-rooms. If the survey didn't address this issue and didn't differentiate between where stranger contacts were made, it's possible that stranger contacts attributed to social networking sites are actually attributable to chat-rooms.

I'm not sure that this is really something that I am concerned about, unless the message is lost that kids who want to be safe are generally safe and that kids who indulge in risky behavior put themselves at risk.

Doh!

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posted by Art @ 3:32 PM   0 comments links to this post

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