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Am Psychol. 2008 Feb-Mar;63(2):111-28. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.63.2.111.

Online "predators" and their victims: myths, realities, and implications for prevention and treatment.

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Crimes against Children Research Center and Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA.


The publicity about online "predators" who prey on naive children using trickery and violence is largely inaccurate. Internet sex crimes involving adults and juveniles more often fit a model of statutory rape--adult offenders who meet, develop relationships with, and openly seduce underage teenagers--than a model of forcible sexual assault or pedophilic child molesting. This is a serious problem, but one that requires approaches different from those in current prevention messages emphasizing parental control and the dangers of divulging personal information. Developmentally appropriate prevention strategies that target youths directly and acknowledge normal adolescent interests in romance and sex are needed. These should provide younger adolescents with awareness and avoidance skills while educating older youths about the pitfalls of sexual relationships with adults and their criminal nature. Particular attention should be paid to higher risk youths, including those with histories of sexual abuse, sexual orientation concerns, and patterns of off- and online risk taking. Mental health practitioners need information about the dynamics of this problem and the characteristics of victims and offenders because they are likely to encounter related issues in a variety of contexts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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