9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN22 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty

2009-09-05 15:30:00 2009-09-05 17:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 15:30 - 17:00 Crime Building I, 2E2

Online sexual solicitation of young people: new risk patterns, or old risks in new arenas?

Across Europe, there is a growing awareness of risks associated with the new media, most obviously the internet. One aspect of this is the potential opportunities for paedophiles to use the internet to solicit children and young people for sexual purposes. While stories about "online predators" who use the internet to gain access to young victims have become a media staple since the late 1990s, very little research has been done with regard to how common this phenomenon actually is. In this paper, we raise two main questions: first, how common is it for young men and women to have experienced online sexual solicitation? Second, are all young people similarly at risk for such events, or will we find that the young people who are exposed to online solicitation share characteristics with young people who have an increased risk for sexual abuse in more traditional settings? Data is found in a Norwegian survey with 7033 respondents, drawn among students in their final year of secondary schooling (normally 18-year olds). The main topic of the survey is past experiences of violence and sexual abuse, and the questionnaire contains a separate section with questions about online sexual solicitations and meetings with cybercontacts. We explore two aspects of this issue, namely online sexual solicitation (exposure to "dirty talk", being asked to provide sexual photos of oneself, being invited to have sex) and meetings with cyber-contacts. Regarding meetings, our main interest is in knowing how many of these meetings end in unpleasant situations, such as pressure to have sex or actual sexual abuse. We analyse variation in risk along the lines of gender, ethnic minority status, how the respondents evaluate their family's financial situation, whether or not the respondent has physical disabilities, the respondents' sexual orientation, and how the respondents evaluate their relationship with their parents. Drawing on this information, we seek to establish how and to what extent risk profiles differ for exposure to online sexual solicitation and sexual abuse in settings that are not connected with the internet.