Social sites safer than chat, IM: Study

Parents, don't just talk with your kids about social networking – chat sites and instant messaging really need to be in the conversation too. Despite the news media's focus on social-networking sites as the locus of online child exploitation, it turns out chat sites and instant-messaging are where most sexual solicitation and cyberbullying is happening. But even in those "places" online, "only 15% of children [aged 10-15] experience unwanted sexual solicitation and only a third report being harassed online," reports HealthDay News, citing a new study in Pediatrics. Here's the difference found between social sites and IM or chat: 4% of the nearly 1,600 children surveyed "reported experiencing an unwanted sexual solicitation and 9% reported being harassed while on a social networking site. Solicitations were reported 59% more often in instant messaging and 19% more often in chat rooms than social networking sites. More surprising, harassments were reported 96% more often in instant messaging than in social networking sites," say the study's authors – Michele Ybarra of Internet Solutions for Kids and Kimberly Mitchell of the University of New Hampshire – in the study's press release. Their advice for parents: "Internet safety is not just about whether your child is on MySpace or not. You should know what your children are doing on MySpace and Facebook. But you also need to know what your children are doing in school, after school, at parties, at the mall, online – basically all environments in which they engage."

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