Internet Prevention Messages: Targeting the Right Online Behaviors | Adolescent Medicine | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network
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February 2007

Internet Prevention Messages: Targeting the Right Online Behaviors

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Internet Solutions for Kids, Inc, Irvine, Calif (Dr Ybarra); and Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham (Drs Mitchell and Finkelhor and Ms Wolak).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(2):138-145. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.2.138D

Background  Internet safety programs urge youth to avoid sharing personal information and talking with “strangers” online.

Objective  To examine whether sharing personal information and talking with strangers online or other behaviors are associated with the greatest odds for online interpersonal victimization.

Design  The Second Youth Internet Safety Survey was a cross-sectional random digit–dial telephone survey.

Setting  United States.

Participants  A total of 1500 youth aged 10 to 17 years who had used the Internet at least once a month for the previous 6 months.

Main Exposure  Online behavior, including disclosure of personal information, aggressive behavior, talking with people met online, sexual behavior, and downloading images using file-sharing programs.

Outcome Measure  Online interpersonal victimization (ie, unwanted sexual solicitation or harassment).

Results  Aggressive behavior in the form of making rude or nasty comments (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 2.3; P<.001) or frequently embarrassing others (AOR, 4.6; P = .003), meeting people in multiple ways (AOR, 3.4; P<.001), and talking about sex online with unknown people (AOR, 2.0; P = .02) were significantly related to online interpersonal victimization after adjusting for the total number of different types of online behaviors youth engaged in. Engaging in 4 types of online behaviors seemed to represent a tipping point of increased risk for online interpersonal victimization (OR, 11.3; P<.001).

Conclusions  Talking with people known only online (“strangers”) under some conditions is related to online interpersonal victimization, but sharing personal information is not. Engaging in a pattern of different kinds of online risky behaviors is more influential in explaining victimization than many specific behaviors alone. Pediatricians should help parents assess their child's online behaviors globally in addition to focusing on specific types of behaviors.