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For kids, more online porn, fewer solicitations

Fewer American children are being targeted by sexual predators on the Internet today than five years ago, according to a new study--an improvement researchers attribute to a growing awareness of the problem among young people.

The findings, (click for PDF), come from a survey by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center.

Of the 1,500 children between the ages of 10 and 17 who were questioned, the survey found that 13 percent were victims of unwanted sexual advances last year, compared to 19 percent in 2000. Those solicitations included attention kids didn't seek, such as requests for sexual pictures.

The report, titled "Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later," also indicated, however, that more aggressive sexual solicitations, which involve off-line contact, remained at 4 percent of all solicitations--the same level as in the first test conducted at 2000. Of those who were solicited aggressively, roughly 7 percent met their predators in person, said Ernie Allen, president of the New Hampshire research center.

Furthermore, the report said that the rate at which young Internet users were exposed to unwanted sexual material increased. In 2005, more than one-third, or 34 percent, of children saw pornography that seeped through online filters and monitoring software in the past year compared to 25 percent in 2000.

The study, which was financed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, was "a mixed report" according to Allen, because of the drop in overall sexual advances, but the steady rate at which children were pursued aggressively.

Researchers credit the overall progress to highly publicized campaigns combating sexual predators on the Web, as well as efforts to teach kids to refrain from sharing personal information and talking to strangers.