Young people, risky behavior and the net: the facts

danah boyd and Samantha Biegler have released a draft literature review on
"Risky Behaviors and Online Safety," commissioned by Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. It looks at the latest papers on the risks presented to young people by using the Internet; if you've been reading the newspapers, the distance between the reality and what you've heard in the sensationalist accounts of pedos, cyberbullies, etc, will surprise:

Concerns about online predators are pervasive, but the image that most people hold doesn't
necessarily match with the data about sexual crimes against minors. For starters, the emphasis on
what takes place online tends to obscure the fact that most cases of sex crimes against children
do not involve the Internet at all. As we seek to help youth who are victims, we must continue
our efforts to address victimization in the home and in the community; addressing Internet-
initiated victimization alone will not help the vast majority of children who are victimized.
When facing interventions to address Internet-initiated victimization, we must be attentive to
research that highlights that some youth are more at-risk than others. Youth who have
psychosocial issues, family and school problems, and those who are engaged in risky behaviors
are far more likely to be victimized than the average youth using the Internet. Targeting those
who are more at-risk will allow us to help more youth. Research also suggests that most youth
who are victimized are not deceived about the abuser's age, do discuss sex online before meeting
up offline, and are aware of the abuser's sexual intentions when they decide to meet them. These
youth often believe that they are in love and have no mental model for understanding why
statutory rape is a crime. In order to help these youth, we cannot focus solely on preventing
adults from engaging with youth; we must also help youth recognize that these encounters are
abusive before they occur.

While the Internet has affected the contours of bullying and harassment, research continues
to emphasize the interplay between what occurs online and what takes place offline. Many of the
same youth are susceptible to victimization and those who engage in online bullying are not
wholly distinct from those who bully offline. While much research is still needed to stabilize
definitions and measurements, there is little doubt that bullying is prevalent both online and
offline, affecting all communities even if it doesn't affect all individuals. We need interventions
that get at the root of bullying, regardless of where it takes place. Because research consistently
shows a connection between psychosocial troubles, family and school issues, and bullying, we
cannot presume that parents are always equipped or present to intervene (and may in fact be part
of the problem). Although countless programs have been developed to educate kids about
bullying, far too little is known about the effectiveness of these programs. Finally, what happens
online is more visible to adults, but we cannot assume that the most damaging acts of bullying
are solely those that we are able to witness.

Risky Behaviors and Online Safety: A 2010 Literature Review