OBJECTIVE: High-risk Internet behaviors, including viewing sexually explicit content, provocative social networking profiles, and entertaining online sexual solicitations, were examined in a sample of maltreated and nonmaltreated adolescent girls aged 14 to 17 years. The impact of Internet behaviors on subsequent offline meetings was observed over 12 to 16 months. This study tested 2 main hypotheses: (1) maltreatment would be a unique contributor to high-risk Internet behaviors and (2) high-quality parenting would dampen adolescents' propensity to engage in high-risk Internet behaviors and to participate in offline meetings. METHODS: Online and offline behaviors and parenting quality were gleaned from 251 adolescent girls, 130 of whom experienced substantiated maltreatment and 121 of whom were demographically matched comparison girls. Parents reported on adolescent behaviors and on the level of Internet monitoring in the home. Social networking profiles were objectively coded for provocative self-presentations. Offline meetings with persons first met online were assessed 12 to 16 months later. RESULTS: Thirty percent of adolescents reported having offline meetings. Maltreatment, adolescent behavioral problems, and low cognitive ability were uniquely associated with high-risk Internet behaviors. Exposure to sexual content, creating high-risk social networking profiles, and receiving online sexual solicitations were independent predictors of subsequent offline meetings. High-quality parenting and parental monitoring moderated the associations between adolescent risk factors and Internet behaviors, whereas use of parental control software did not. CONCLUSIONS: Treatment modalities for maltreated adolescents should be enhanced to include Internet safety literacy. Adolescents and parents should be aware of how online self-presentations and other Internet behaviors can increase vulnerability for Internet-initiated victimization.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health