The Internet Won't Destroy Kids After All

A new report might make it a harder for conservatives and savvy politicians to profit by needlessly stoking parental fears about online predators.

The Internet has always been a favorite target of the "Won’t somebody please think of the children" crowd.

Overblown reports of child predators using sites like MySpace and Facebook to seduce naive youngsters have fired long-standing moral panics, leading to pointless government pressure on companies to institute policies that rarely work. (i.e. easily foiled age verification programs.)

A new report, put out by the Internet Safety Technical Task Force (created by 49 attorney generals), might make it a little harder for conservatives and savvy politicians to advance their careers by needlessly stoking parental fears.

The New York Times reports:

A high-profile task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into the problem of sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there really is not a significant problem.


The task force, led by the Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, looked at scientific data on online sexual predators and found that children and teenagers are very unlikely to be propositioned by adults online. In the cases that do exist, the report said, teenagers are typically willing participants and are at risk in other ways — because of poor home environments or substance abuse, for example.

As it turns out, the biggest threat faced by most kids online is that other kids can be assholes:

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