IM and chatrooms worst for sexual harassment

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IM and chatrooms worst for sexual harassment

Young teenagers are more likely to be victimised while using instant messaging and chatrooms than social networking sites, new research claimed today.

The study was conducted by child health researchers Michele Ybarra of Internet Solutions for Kids and Kimberly Mitchell of the University of New Hampshire.

The research looked at websites where young adults are most likely to experience sexual solicitation and harassment.

Four per cent of the 1,600 children and adolescents aged 10 to 15 reported experiencing an unwanted sexual solicitation, and nine per cent reported being harassed while on a social networking site.

Solicitations were reported 59 per cent more often during instant messaging, however, and 19 per cent more often in chat rooms, than social networking sites.

More surprisingly, harassments were reported 96 per cent more often during instant messaging than in social networking sites.

"Victimisation is happening in social networking sites," said Ybarra. "But they are happening with greater frequency in instant messaging and chat rooms."

The authors believe that the results should serve as a warning for parents not to focus exclusively on social networking sites.

"Internet safety is not just about whether your child is on MySpace and Facebook, " said Ybarra.

"You also need to know what your children are doing in school, after school, at parties, at the mall and online - basically all environments in which they engage. You cannot just focus on one place and assume that your job is done."

Adults also need to understand that for many young people, the online world is an extension of their offline world.

"Young people experiencing problems online are often experiencing problems offline as well," said Ybarra. "We need to make sure that we are giving them the support and tools to healthfully navigate across all environments, both online and offline."

However, the study does provide some good news for parents. The majority of young people using the internet are never harassed and never experience unwanted sexual solicitation.

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