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Meeting online strangers in real life

A wake-up call for parents

A recent study could be a wake-up call for parents. The study reports that nearly 30 percent of teen girls admit to meeting an online stranger in real life. And that abused or neglected girls are more likely to do so.

Dr. Jennie Noll of the University of Cincinnati studied the habits of 251 teenage girls for 16 months, after which a third of these girls reported meeting online strangers.

Of the 251 girls studied, about 130 had a history of neglect or physical or sexual abuse. These girls were more likely to “present themselves online in a sexually provocative way than other teenage girls,” according to the study’s press release.

“If someone is looking for a vulnerable teen to start an online sexual discourse, they will more likely target someone who presents herself provocatively,” Noll, director of research in behavioral medicine and clinical psychology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center said. “Maltreatment poses a unique risk for online behavior that may set the stage for harm.”

Although it’s impossible to protect children from everything on the Internet, parents can try to protect their children from abusive behavior at home and at school – perhaps preventing this type of behavior from occurring in the first place. Of course, it always important to keep the lines of communication open.

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