Chapter Seventeen: The Real Numbers and Increasing Online Dangers

The sheer number of online predators is increasing drastically with the expansion of Internet, social networking sites, and the availability of technology and access to these sites for a majority of children. This chapter will give brief insight into the real numbers of online predation attempts, kidnappings, and cyberbullying cases, as well as some information about new and upcoming dangers that children may be susceptible to.

96% of teens use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Chat rooms, and blogs, which emphasizes how important Internet safety is simply because of the vast amount of people using it. Breaking it down by age lends us these figures:

Four in five 5-7 year olds (82%)

Nearly all 8-11 year olds (96%)

Almost all 12-15 year olds (99%).

Not only is the simple use of the Internet and social networking sites increasing, the average time spent online for children is increasing as well, with the older groups spending about just as much time online as all of the younger groups combined. In 2013, the average time spent online for 12-15 year olds was 17 hours a week. Spending more time online allows children to become more vulnerable to sexual predators, sexual offenses, and cyberbullying, which is in addition to leaving less time for family outings, television, and getting physical activity outside with friends or sports teams.

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Online Predators Facts and Statistics

The number of sexual predators and online sexual offenses has more than doubled in the last three years, with more than 82% of online sex crimes originating from social networking sites that predators use to gain insight into their victim’s habits and likes. This statistic goes hand in hand with educating your kids about online safety, as"65% of online sex offenders used the victim’s social networking site to gain home and school information, [and] 26% of [the] offenders used the [the sites] to gain information about the victim’s whereabouts at a specific time." Due to these staggering statistics, it is crucial that children are informed about the dangers of using social networking sites and posting personal information that can harm them. Girls are especially vulnerable to certain online sexual offenders, as 75% of the victims of Internet-initiated sex crimes are girls, a large majority of them being between 13 to 15 years of age."

Sex offenders are not the only thing that parents should educate their children about online. There is a lot of graphic material on the Internet that children can access with just the click of a button. A staggering "90% of children ages 8-16 have seen online pornography." Whether or not it was intentional, pornography and sexual content is increasingly prevalent in the online world, so setting up blockers and filters can be one of the best techniques to protect your children from this material. In addition to pornography, graphic content such as violence and explicit language is easily accessible through websites such as YouTube and online games. This content is very tough to monitor, but setting up parental blockers can help minimalize exposure. Gaming sites and devices contribute to 21% of children’s Internet use, with 8% of them being exposed to nude pictures from other online gamers without having given their permission. With the increase in gaming communities, and games and videos involving explicit content, parents need to monitor their children’s habits more closely now and filter their Internet search options.

Cyber Bullying Facts and Statistics

Last, but most definitely not least, we must touch on the incidence of cyber bullying, which has skyrocketed in recent times. "65% of 8-14 year olds have been involved in a cyber-bullying incident." About half as many teens have actually been the perpetrators of such crimes, with girls and boys being just as likely as the other to be the victims and/or instigators of such a crime. What is especially alarming about cyber bullying that "fewer than 1 in 5 cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement," which allows the bullying to continue and potentially spiral out of control. A spike in teen suicides has been linked to cyber bullying being one of the main culprits. The most common type of cyber bullying consists of spreading hurtful rumors and saying rude comments that can really have adverse effects on teens in their stage of development. It is always important to keep in touch with your children so that you know what goes on in their lives and can pay attention to changes in behavior or extreme amounts of time spent online to help protect them from not just sexual predators, but kids their own age engaging in cyber bullying.

In all, these statistics are staggering, but it is believed that the more knowledge parents have about what happens in their children’s lives, the more their kids will be protected and the more likely they are to inform them of dangerous situations. Statistics give parents a real-life perspective of the dangers of the Internet, and they can motivate parents to set up parental blockers or monitoring devices on their computers to help protect their children from easy-to-access explicit content. Understanding that cyber bullying is on the rise can help parents establish open and supportive relationships with their kids to help them transition and cope with issues like these.