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Statutory sex crime laws in every state recognize the exploitative imbalance of power and experience that makes relationships between young teens and adults inappropriate.Other things that probably increase risk are giving out very personal or sexually oriented information, looking for romantic relationships online, and inviting contact from lots of people3.Research suggests that personal web pages are not in themselves dangerous3.Virtually all cases of Internet sex crimes involve youth 12 and up2. Younger children have much less interest than teens in interacting with and going to meet unknown persons they have encountered online.Avoid implying that the typical youngster vulnerable to online offenders is a young child.But some of the information in their lectures, pamphlets, videos, and web sites does not reflect what researchers have learned about the important features of these crimes.

Here are suggestions of how to make Internet safety education materials more consistent with current research.

Parents can be helpful, but the research suggests that the most vulnerable youth are ones who are having conflicts with their parents.

So we need to reach teenagers directly with messages that are credible.

While we need to help parents and younger children prepare for online situations they may confront as they get older, we should not unduly frighten them about criminals who are targeting adolescents rather than young children.

Research has shown that simply posting or sending some personal information online does not put youth at risk3.

Research suggests youth take more risks when they are online together with other youth1.