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Here are suggestions of how to make Internet safety education materials more consistent with current research.
This most commonly used statistic from the widely cited Youth Internet Safety Survey (YISS) counts, “unwanted sexual solicitations,” but many such experiences are probably not encounters with true Internet sex offenders.
For example, many of the youngsters thought the solicitations were from other youth or just casual rude comments1.
Four percent of the youth in the YISS received solicitations in which the solicitor made or tried to make contact with the youth offline via telephone, offline mail or in person1.
But some of the information in their lectures, pamphlets, videos, and web sites does not reflect what researchers have learned about the important features of these crimes.
Most of these crimes are statutory rather than forcible rapes2.
In most encounters, victims meet offenders voluntarily and expect sexual activity, because they feel love or affection for the person they have been corresponding with.
Typically they have sex with the adult on multiple occasions.
Although cases of abduction, forcible rape and murder have occurred, they are very rare.
According to research looking at crimes ending in arrest, violence occurred in only 5% of cases.