Debunking myths about kids’ online risks: Studies

By Anne Collier

In research she presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting and which will soon be published in the journal Pediatrics, Michele Ybarra, did some myth-busting. One myth she cited is the one about how the online experiences of many young people are negative. Rather, “most young people are not having negative experiences online,” USATODAY reports. “In her studies, 62% of young people say they have neither been harassed nor bullied online.” Another myth is that “kids are exposed to a lot of sexual content online. Ybarra, who is president and research director of the San Clemente, Calif.-based nonprofit research organization called Internet Solutions for Kids, says the truth is that young people are much more likely to be exposed to sexual material through television and music than they are through Web sites and videogames. Her research suggests that exposure to sexual material is highest with TV, at 75%, followed by music, at 69%…. The Internet is the least common way kids are exposed to sexual material, at 16% to 25%.” Ybarra’s data are from a longitudinal study of 1,588 then-10-to-15-year-olds which started in 2006 and a survey of more than 5,000 13-to-18-year-olds. In other findings she presented…

* Only 5% of teens surveyed had “sexted,” a finding very close to that of the Pew Internet Project, which found that 4% of US teens had sent sexting photos (see this).
* “Of young people who report being bullied, 39% say it was in person; 17% say online,” USATODAY reported.
* Another finding very close to Pew Internet’s: that “young people who are sexting are more likely to be engaged in other sexual behaviors and view sexting as another way of expressing sexuality, she says.
* “Cyberbullying affects between 15% and 17% of young people each year; harassment affects about 38%. Bullying is most commonly a face-to-face experience, but a minority of kids (8%) say they have experienced bullying in person, online and via text messages.”

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