Reuters reported on 02/19/08 on a study which appears in American Psychologist which indicates that sexual predators on the internet don't fit the stereotype commonly described. The sexual predators tend to be straight forward, say they are interested in sex, and the teens who respond tend to get involved in several conversations and perceive the virtual relationship as a romance. Here is a brief snippet from the article:
The typical online sexual predator is not someone posing as a teen to lure unsuspecting victims into face-to-face meetings that result in violent rapes, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
Rather, they tend to be adults who make their intentions of a sexual encounter quite plain to vulnerable young teens who often believe they are in love with the predator, they said.
And contrary to the concerns of parents and state attorneys general, they found social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace do not appear to expose teens to greater risks.
"A lot of the characterizations that you see in Internet safety information suggest that sex offenders are targeting very young children and using violence and deception against their victims," said Janis Wolak of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.
"Especially since social networking sites became popular, people are suggesting that these offenders are using information to stalk and abduct their victims," said Wolak, whose study appears in the journal American Psychologist.
"We are not seeing those types of cases," Wolak said in a telephone interview.
Obviously, the ability to educate and protect kids from internet sexual predators depends on accurate information. Information, such as collected in this study, is important for effective prevention/education.