A disturbing trend was reported by several news outlets Monday: Teen girls are meeting people on the Web who convince them to meet in person — though they’re strangers.
The study, published in the January 14 edition of medical journal “Pediatrics” has a message for parents and teens: The Internet can still be dangerous.
“If someone is looking for a vulnerable teen to start an online sexual discourse, they will more likely target someone who presents herself provocatively,” Jennie Noll, who also serves as director of research in behavioral medicine and clinical psychology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said in a press release. “Maltreatment poses a unique risk for online behavior that may set the stage for harm.”
For the study, Noll and her team surveyed more than 250 adolescent girls 14 to 17 years old, 130 of whom had experienced a documented form of abuse or maltreatment.
The study found about 30 percent of surveyed girls said they met a person with whom they had connected online, even though that person’s identity had not been confirmed prior to their meeting.
And girls in the study with a history of abuse were particularly prone to “presenting themselves online (both in images and verbally) in ways that can be construed as sexually explicit and provocative,” HealthDay reported.
It’s behavior that sets the stage for meeting a predator, experts said.
“Even if just 1 percent of them end up having a dangerous encounter with a stranger offline, it’s still a very big problem,” Noll said to HealthDay.
Study authors urged parents to monitor their child’s online presence and make sure they know to report to an adult whenever a stranger tries to “befriend” them online.