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Guest Thinkers

Online predators: Overblown threat?

Much conversation has occurred in the educational blogging community about DOPA. One of the arguments against DOPA that hasn’t popped up that much is the fact that the perceived problem may be largely overblown. While it’s obviously important to keep children safe and protect students against online predators, it’s also equally important to keep the issue in proper perspective. Consider the following:

  • Only about one-fifth of online sexual solicitations occur on non-home computers (see p. 18 of the full report; this remaining fifth would include schools, libraries, etc.)
  • Students who come across sexual predators and cyberbullies are, for the most part, handling those situations fairly effectively
  • The numbers aren’t uniformly positive, of course. For example:

  • Some teenagers still are engaging in risky behaviors, including talking online about sex with someone they’ve never met in person, arranging to actually meet someone they only knew online, pretending to be a different person / age online, or never telling their parents that they were solicited by adults online (2005, Polly Klaas Foundation)
  • The numbers are pretty clear that the proportion of online sexual solicitations that occur during school time is pretty low. This means that DOPA is a solution in search of a problem, with the concurrent effects on positive Internet tool usage and lack of opportunity to teach students about appropriate use that already have been noted.

    I highly recommend you check out some of the high-quality work being done by the CCRC, CSRIU, and others. If we’re going to hype ourselves up about these issues, we should at least have a solid factual base to undergird our conversations.


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