To explore the decline in online sexual solicitations between 2000 and 2010 by examining the characteristics of solicitations to better inform prevention efforts. Data are from the Youth Internet Safety Surveys (YISS); three cross-sectional, nationally representative telephone surveys of 3561 youth Internet users in the United States, ages 10 through 17 (1501 in YISS-1; 1500 in YISS-2; 1560 in YISS-3). Unwanted online sexual solicitation was defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk or give personal sexual information that were unwanted or, whether wanted or not, made by an adult. The decline in unwanted sexual solicitations from 19% in 2000 to 13% in 2005 to 9% in 2010 was driven by a reduction in youth who were being asked to talk about sex or for personal sexual information online. Pre-teens (ages 10–12) accounted for the majority of this decline. Multiple solicitations over the course of a year also decreased. More solicitations occurred at the hands of people youth knew in person prior to the incident – mainly friends and acquaintances, and less so at the hands of people youth met online. By 2010 most solicitations were occurring through social networking sites. Victims were disclosing solicitation incidents at greater rates in 2010 – mostly to friends. In spite of continuing anxiety about the impact of the Internet on the safety of youth, encouraging trends suggest experiences, behavior and education are moving in the direction of greater online safety and improved experiences for youth.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.