Despite all the fear of online predators waiting in chat rooms to harm children, it turns out that a large number of children are being harassed online not by random strangers, but by their own friends. According to a survey from Michigan State University, 1 in 4 kids between the ages of 12 and 16 reported that they were pressure by friends into talking about sex online when they didn’t want to.
Since the 1970s, contrary to popular belief, we’ve known that most victims of sexual crime, whether pedophilia, rape, or sexual harassment, are victimized by people they know, so this new data shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Unfortunately, a lot of American parents, perhaps the majority, don’t know this, and focus on “stranger danger,” instilling a distrust of the other and creating a mindset in which trusted individuals won’t, or can’t, harass their children.
Child safety features or keeping computer access to communal areas, common tactics in keeping kids away from websites deemed inappropriate by their parents, don’t seem to have any affect on this situation. That’s because kids aren’t going to porn sites to be harassed by their friends, it’s happening over social media, or via chat programs, even text.
The culprits in this case are people these children spend a lot of time with: friends, teammates, potential romantic partners, and they have a lot of influence over each other, and that results in power, something hard to resist, which is how kids get into these situations in the first place. The most likely answer to the problem is education. Parents, and teachers, need to do a better job of helping their children to understand sexuality, their own bodies and urges, and what constituted sexual harassment, rape, and so forth. Uncomfortable or not, any of these kids may not have none that they should, or that they could, say no or otherwise put a stop to such activity.