The prevailing narrative around online violence against children often revolves around the notion of "stranger danger." However, a recent meta-analysis, which reviewed 32 studies covering thousands of minors, challenges this widely-held belief. The findings suggest that most children know their online predators.
The meta-analysis revealed that around one-third of the studies focused on solicitation and general online sexual abuse against children, accounting for 34% and 31% of the online crimes investigated, respectively. The meta-analysis also included other types of online violence such as cyberstalking, grooming, and image-based sexual abuse, which accounted for 3%, 9%, and 22% of the cases, respectively.
Moreover, approximately two-fifths of the perpetrators were found to be juveniles themselves. This indicates that the issue of online violence extends beyond the stereotypical image of a predatory stranger lurking in the shadows of the internet.
These findings challenge the current approach to online violence prevention programs, which overwhelmingly focus on the stranger typification of online violence. It is crucial for those of us who work with children to recognize that this perspective may not align with the reality of online violence. We need to educate children about the potential risks posed by both strangers and individuals they may know offline. Additionally, we need to foster open lines of communication with children and teach them how to recognize and report any form of online violence.