A new report to the US Attorney General reveals that the biggest threat to children on the Internet is . . . other kids. This finding flies in the face of media sagacity, which holds that children are Blakean angels. “[T]he risks minors face online are complex and multifaceted and are in most cases not significantly different than those they face offline, and that as they get older, minors themselves contribute to some of the problems,” says the report.

The biggest threat to children online is bullying and harassment by other kids. Not only are children's peers their biggest threat, those most apt to get into trouble in the real world are more likely to find problems on the Internet:

“Those who are most at risk often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies,” says the report.

The report, "Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies," (pdf) was authored by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University for the Attorney General, and written in collaboration with leaders from ISPs, social networking sites, academia, and child safety, public policy advocacy, and technology development groups. It focuses on sexual predation, bullying, and exposure to illegal or indecent content, especially in the context of Web 2.0 technologies.

More research needs to be done on sexual predation and social media, as most of the data law enforcement has is from the pre-social-media Internet. Sexual predation on minors by minors is more common than by adults, the report says.

In addition to putting further resources into technology for protecting children, the Berkman Center's report recommends a greater allotment of resources to parents and communities.

By Mark Alvarez