A study you’ve probably not heard of just came out: “Online Requests for Sexual Pictures from Youth: Risk Factors and Incident Characteristics.” It’s in the August issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, authored by prominent researchers at the University of New Hampshire, including David Finkelhor.
Their data come from a phone survey of 1500 kids aged 10 to 17. Of these, 65 – about four percent – said they’d been asked while online to send out nude pictures of themselves. Only one kid complied.
Presumably, the rest said “bug off.” Still, many of the 65 who got asked for pictures were upset about it. Even if they didn’t send anything, they felt harassed, even stalked, and that’s surely a problem. Kids deserve to feel safe wherever they are, including on the Net. If they don’t, adults need to help make things better. The press goes for civic duty news, and generally salivates over internet-and-kids sex stories even if they lack redeeming social value. So you’d think this study would have appeared on Page Ones everywhere.
Instead, it’s generally been ignored or misrepresented.
Probably because a look at the data reveals that kids who were asked to send pix tended to be black. Or to be precise, teenaged girl black. Associated risk factors included: hanging around a lot in chat rooms, intentionally downloading porn, acting mean and agressive online, and being depressed.
This sort of victim doesn’t play well in Peoria. In the unspoken but ever present public mind, the study might as well be titled “Online Requests for Sexual Pictures from Loser Hos.” To skirt that problem, most news outlets ignored the report entirely. A few used an Associated Press item that omitted race, gender, and most other risk factors.
So much for the mainstream media’s interest in science and protecting our children.
DEBBIE NATHAN is a contributor to “America’s Mayor, America’s President? The Strange Career of Rudy Giuliani” (ed. Robert Polner with preface by Jimmy Breslin, Soft Skull Press). With Michael Snedeker she wrote Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a Modern American Witch Hunt. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org