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American Academy of Pediatrics Concerned about Social Networking Sites

In a report released today, the American Academy of Pediatrics expresses concern about social networking sites. Despite the recent focus on restricting access to social networking Web sites to protect children, researchers have found that victimization online is more likely to occur through instant messaging and in chat rooms. The Growing up With Media survey asked nearly 1,600 Internet users between the ages of 10 to 15 about their online experiences over the past year. Fifteen percent reported an unwanted sexual solicitation in that time, with about one-fourth of those occurring on a social networking site. Thirty-three percent reported online harassment, with about one-fourth of the incidents occurring on a social networking site. Among targeted youth, solicitations were reported to be via instant messaging (43 percent of incidents) or in chat rooms (32 percent of incidents). Harassment was more common in instant messaging (55 percent of incidents). The authors suggest that parents should focus on children’s online behaviors and psychosocial issues rather than on restricting use of social networking sites. They also recommend that policy aimed at reducing children’s victimization on the Internet focus on mental health interventions for vulnerable youth, and broad Internet safety education.

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