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David Baxter PhD

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Online teens aren't afraid of strangers
By Anick Jesdanun
Oct 15, 2007

Those with profiles on social-networking sites more likely to be contacted

NEW YORK - Although they are more likely to be contacted by strangers online, teens who have posted photos of themselves or created personal profile pages aren't necessarily finding those contacts scary or uncomfortable, a new study finds.

In its latest report, the Pew Internet and American Life Project said 44 percent of online teens with profiles at sites like Facebook and MySpace have been contacted by a stranger, compared with 16 percent of those without profiles.

About half of those who have posted photos of themselves anywhere on the Internet have been contacted by someone with no connection to them or their friends, compared with 16 percent of those who have not posted photos.

The gap is not surprising because Pew counts as "stranger contacts" comments left on photo-sharing sites and requests to become friends at social-networking sites, or popular online hangouts where users are encouraged to expand their networks of friends by creating profiles with personal messages and details on their interests.

Even fewer teens say the contact makes them feel scared or uncomfortable. About 10 percent of online teens with profiles or photos said they felt that way, compared with about 5 percent of those who did not have profiles or photos of themselves.

That's insignificant considering the survey's margin of sampling error of 4 percentage points in either direction. The telephone study of 886 U.S. youths ages 12 to 17 with Internet access was conducted Oct. 23-Nov. 19, 2006.

The study also found girls more likely than boys to feel scared or uncomfortable because of the contact from a stranger.

Teens who use social-networking sites to flirt are more likely to be contacted, Pew said. However, whether a teen includes personal information such as name, school or e-mail address doesn't appear to influence the likelihood of contact.
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