Further, researchers found no cases of stalking and abduction based on personal information posted by youths on social networking websites. In the few cases found where stalking had occurred, all of the incidents happened after predators had already met face-to-face with their victims.

Fiction: Most online predators use deception online to convince kids that they are approximately the same age. They do this to build a false sense of trust, and when the time is ripe, they encourage a face-to-face meeting with the child.

Fact: While online predators do attempt to build trust and confidence through their communication with a potential victim and eventually pursue face-to-face meetings, only 20% of actual victims (2006) stated that the predator used deception about age.

Fiction: Most online predators engage in violent behaviors or threaten their victims with violence.

Fact: Researchers found that only 5% of online predators used violence or threats of violence with their victims. Most online-initiated sex crimes where charges were filed against predators were prosecuted under statutory rape laws, where the victim was simply underage, unable to legally consent to sexual activity with an adult.

Fiction: When online predators and victims meet face-to-face, the predator forces the unwilling victim into having sex.

Fact: The reality is that the vast majority of predators are upfront about being adults who are seeking sex, and when they finally arrange a face-to-face meeting, the kids willingly meet with the predator. Of teens that had been sexually abused by an online predator in 2006, 39% had two or more face-to-face meetings. Many victims claimed to be in love or have strong feelings for the predator.

Fiction: The number of sexual abuse cases reported involving children and teens has gone up since the advent of the Internet, and particularly since social networking websites have come into popular use.

Fact: The key indicator is the overall number of child sexual abuse cases reported. This number of substantiated cases between 1992 and 2005 has actually declined by 52%. Although the reported cases of Internet-initiated sexual abuse have risen, it’s largely attributed to the fact that as the Internet and social networking sites have gained a massive influx of users, predators have also gone online and have begun using it as a new method of connecting with potential victims.

Establishing connections with kids is typical behavior for sexual predators. The Internet has simply created a new means for predators to make these connections. In other words, there is really nothing “new” about how sexual predators operate.

Instead, some predators have turned to the Internet as a source for making their connections. One other note: In 2006, law enforcement officials made more arrests (3,100) through undercover “sting” operations against online predators than there were actual cases of young people abused by online predators (615). This is a very positive sign that law enforcement departments around the country are taking online predation very seriously and should give predators everywhere reason to fear their methods due to the increased likelihood that they will be caught.

What Does It All Mean For Parents?

1) Maintain perspective. A parent’s biggest focus of concern ought to be reserved for the largest threats of sexual abuse to their children. 60% of all sexual abuse crimes against children are perpetrated by acquaintances of the victim. Family members commit 30% of these sexual crimes. This leaves only 10% of child sexual abuse crimes that are perpetrated by strangers.

Consequently, becoming a random victim of an online predator is a cause for some concern, but it doesn’t have to be a source of more fear or give rise to establishing more protective measures than parents would implement to equip and protect children against being abducted by a stranger when visiting a local mall, or when walking home from school.