A Harvard-based task force convened by 50 Attorneys General that spent a year researching the issue of sexual solicitation of children online has found out that there actually isn't a problem.
According to the New York Times, which obtained a copy of the report from the Internet Safety Technical Task Force due to be released Wednesday, the fears that older adults were using popular Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace to deceive and prey on children are a "moral panic."
Instead, a far more serious problem is that of child-on-child bullying, both online and offline, which no one is addressing, the report concludes.
This is quite a turnaround, considering that Attorneys General such as Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Roy Cooper of North Carolina publicly accused the social networks of facilitating the activities of pedophiles, noted the Times.
The task force was formed about a year ago by the Attorneys General from 49 states (Texas, apparently, doesn't care about Protecting The Children) and the District of Columbia, and led by The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, a month after the Attorneys General Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking and MySpace issued a Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety.
The report is 39 pages long and incorporates comments from dozens of academics, childhood safety experts, and executives of 30 companies, including Yahoo, AOL, MySpace, Facebook, Verizon and AT&T, according to the Times.
The report also concluded that age verification systems don't really work very well to protect children, either.
Not to say that online abuse of teens never happens, of course. The usual cause, according to the report? "Teenagers are typically willing participants and are at risk in other ways — because of poor home environments or substance abuse," the Times said.