30 percent of teenage girls report that they've met strangers they befriended on the internet, according to a new study.
The study also found that girls who are abused or neglected tend to come across as more sexually provocative than other girls and are also more likely to have offline meetings with strangers they've met online. Although these meetings are mostly benign, they could still mean a threat to these teens.
"These meetings may have been benign, but for an adolescent girl to do it is dangerous," says Jennie Noll, PhD, psychologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and lead author of the study, in a news release.
The study included 251 girls who were between the ages of 14 and 17, with half of them victims of abuse or neglect.
"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 behavior that may set the stage for harm," Noll said.
Noll said that just installing Internet filtering software at home didn't help parents keep the teen girls away from meeting strangers. The study, however, found that parental monitoring of the kids' behavior reduced the likelihood of the teenage girls meeting unknown people through the internet.
The study is part of Noll's research on risky internet behaviors. Her previous work in the field has shown the dangers of teen girls meeting strangers through internet.
"One patient told a story about a guy who started texting her a lot, and he seemed 'really nice.' So she agreed to meet him at the mall, she got in his car, they drove somewhere and he raped her," she concluded.
The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.