30 per cent girls meet strangers they chat up online

Teenage girls

One in three teenage girls actually end up meeting strangers that they chat up online without confirming their identity, an American study claims.

The study highlights the risk that teen girls face when they go online heightened for those who have been victims of abuse or neglect.

It shows that 30 per cent of teenagers reported having offline meetings with people they have met on the Internet and whose identity had not been fully confirmed prior to the meeting.

"These meetings may have been benign, but for an adolescent girl to do it is dangerous," said Jennie Noll, a psychologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the study's lead author.

Moreover, abused or neglected teenage girls were more likely to present themselves online in a sexually provocative way than other teenage girls.

Research shows that high-risk, online profiles are more likely to lead to offline meetings, according to Noll.

"If someone is looking for a vulnerable teen to start an online sexual discourse, they will more likely target someone who presents herself provocatively.

"Maltreatment poses a unique risk for online behaviour that may set the stage for harm," she said in a statement Noll and her colleagues studied 251 adolescent girls between the ages of 14 and 17. About half were victims of abuse or neglect.

If families installed Internet filtering software at home, it made no difference in the association between maltreatment and high-risk Internet behaviours, said Noll.

These behaviours included intentionally seeking adult content, provocative self-presentations on social networking sites and receiving sexual advances online.

On the other hand, "high quality parenting" and parental monitoring helped reduce the association between adolescent risk factors and these online behaviours, she said.

The study was published in the journal 'Pediatrics'.

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