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Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation's Youth

NCJ Number
David Finkelhor; Kimberly J. Mitchell; Janis Wolak
Date Published
June 2000
63 pages
In its fiscal year 1999 Appropriations Bill, the U.S. Congress directed the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to undertake the first national survey on the risks faced by children on the Internet, focusing on unwanted sexual solicitations and pornography; in fulfilling this mandate, this report examines the problem and provides a base-line understanding of the risks in order to help policymakers, law enforcement, and families better understand the risks and respond effectively.
The survey found that a large fraction of youth were encountering offensive experiences on the Internet, and the offenses and offenders were even more diverse than previously thought. Although most sexual solicitations failed, their quantity was alarming. The primary vulnerable population is teenagers. Sexual material was found to be very intrusive on the Internet, readily appearing when exploring the Internet for other purposes. Most youth were not bothered by what they encounter on the Internet, but there was a significant subgroup of youth who were distressed by exposure to pornography, sexual solicitations, and harassment. Many youth did not tell anyone about their encounters with pornography and sexual solicitations, and youth and parents did not know where to report these unwelcome encounters. Still, little is known about the incidence of "traveler" cases (adults or youth who travel to physically meet and have sex with someone they first came to know on the Internet), or any completed Internet seduction and Internet sexual exploitation cases, including trafficking in child pornography. Among the recommendations offered were the need to train mental health, school, and family counselors in the new Internet hazards and how these hazards contribute to personal distress and other psychological and interpersonal problems. Also, social scientists should cooperate with Internet technologists to explore various social and technological strategies for reducing offensive and illegal behavior on the Internet. Further, laws are needed to help ensure offensive acts that are illegal in other contexts will also be illegal on the Internet. 7 tables, 8 figures, and 4 references