Predators: Parents really can worry less

Be alert, certainly be engaged, but let’s be realistic, is my takeaway from an interview Lenore Skenazy – syndicated columnist and author of Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry – gave Salon.com. I’m going to quote a chunk about predators in full because it’s good to hear a prominent voice correctly citing the research for a change. Her comment could be mapped to the findings of last year’s Internet Safety Technical Task Force. Salon asked her, “What’s your take on Internet sexual predators?” Skenazy: “The world online turns out to be not very different from the world offline. There are some really seedy neighborhoods where you wouldn’t want your kids hanging out, especially if they were wearing high-heeled shoes and fishnets stockings at night. If your kids don’t go there, then your kids are not going to be stalked by predators just looking up prom pictures on Facebook. David Finkelhor, the head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, has discovered pedophiles don’t want to waste their time just flipping through MySpace pages or Facebook pages. It’s as futile as trying to call up random numbers from the phonebook and trying to get a date. It’s just a waste of time. They would rather go for the low-hanging fruit: young people hanging out in sexually suggestive chat rooms presenting themselves in a sexual way…. If your kid is just texting his friends, or posting pictures on Facebook or AIM’ing, it’s no more dangerous than them talking to each other as they walk down the sidewalk, or at the mall.” But don’t miss the whole interview about raising kids in an alarmist society. [For more on the latest research from Dr. Finkelhor and colleagues, see this.]

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