Give Me A Break

I got a spam email today that linked to this article:

The statistics are alarming. One out of every five children is solicited for sex online but only 25% of parents ever hears about it.

According to cyber investigators, the average child predator is a white male between the age of 25 to 45, middle to upper income. He maintains a professional job, sometimes in a career involving children, and uses the computer to reach his victims because of its perceived anonymity and access. That means that, as parents, we have to be proactive and involved in what our kids are doing online, whether we want them using them or not.

Really?  One in five?  Does this pass any kind of smell test?  Let me put it this way:  If someone gave you a small team of middle age white males and made it your job to contact 20% of the kids in America, do you think you could do it?  My guess is that you would have to resort to Santa Clause logistics to figure out how so few people could contact so many.

It is just incredible to me that the media will reprint any number whatsoever from an activist.  This is the post-modern "fake but accurate" impulse once again.  If you asked the media person, they would say "Yeah, its probably exaggerated, but its for a good cause."

Update: Just to head off the obvious comment.  I am sure that it occurs, but this occurrence rate is absurd.


  1. ErikTheRed:

    It probably goes hand in hand with the ridiculous number of hot schoolteachers screwing their students silly. Back in my day, kids had to work to get any sort sex. Up hill, both ways. Now everyone just wants to give it to them for free. Friggin' youth of today...

  2. bbartlog:

    I think they just use expansive definitions of 'children' and 'solicited for sex' to get their stats.
    E.g. if 'children' is everyone under 18, and 'solicited for sex' includes any time that some yahoo in chat types 'so ur a girl? ru hott? want2 hook up?', you're going to find that indeed there is a lot of solicitation going on.

  3. Xmas:


    No, no. They use the definition of "children" that the anti-guns/drugs/alcohol folks use.

    children == anyone under the age of 21.

  4. Ari:

    This is the "information super-highway", "internet predators", "virtual-bullying", "proactive", and "cyber investigators" crowd anyway. Logic isn't so important for them.

  5. ErikTheRed:

    @Ari - No, no, no, it's a "Series of Tubes!"

  6. Kyle Bennett:

    So.... 1 out of 5 children is solicited, and 1 out of 4 parents hear about it. IOW, 5 of every 4 parents whose children are solicited hear about it.

    and bbartblog, I'm sure "solicited" includes any time they reach a page with a dating site banner ad on it. I bet just as many kids are "solicited" to refinance their mortgages.

  7. Kevin:

    Most likely both stats are true, but they've got nothing to do with one another.

    I'll buy that one in five "children" has been solicited for sex online, as long as the definition of "children" reaches to at least age 18. But I'm confident that the overwhelming majority of those solicitations are aimed at kids 15-18, and that the overwhelming majority of those contacts are, if not welcome, at least from peers. Trying to get laid is why teens have Facebook and MySpace accounts, just like it's the reason behind most everything else they do. Except for videogames.

    And then - hey! look over there! - the average predator may well be a white male 25-45 (though I'm a lot more skeptical about this one). What's missing is any substantiation of the idea that the "kids" being solicited for sex are being solicited by these predators.

  8. Jason:

    No doubt as others have noted the statistics are accurate if misleading.

    This seems to be a general trend sadly. It is really unfortunate though that the study likely counts "children" as "not adults of voting age" yet when people see the word "children" they think "toddler/junior schooler".

    This is hardly limited to this sort of reporting though. My own areas of interest in Intelligent Design and Global Warming suffer similarly.

    Consider the image the word "Creationist" conjures up for many people, and then consider the sorts of people that the label is applied to. Likewise "Global Warming Denier" as the sterotype goes, compared the actual people that question AGW.

    It is a pity the GeneralPublic(TM) is not more critical of this sort of information and doesn't ask these sorts of questions, unfortunately I suspect nobody asks the question until they are on the receiving end of such dubious labeling.

  9. Vishal:

    I think one of the implicit claims of the emails is that the number of child molesters is much larger than you would think so using a small team of males is anomalous for the smell test.

  10. Ed S:

    I get "solicited for sex" by camgirls and Russian mail-order brides several times a day via email. About once a week via MySpace.

    I would expect that over 50% of children 12-17 are solicited by their peers online. I'd expect 100% are solicited by camgirls. The 20% figure seems very low.

    I've never received an email from a middle-aged-appearing man asking for sex.

  11. Matthew Brown:

    Lovely bad statistics there. I bet that the "20% of children are solicited for sex online"; it's almost certainly a very high percentage of 16 and 17 year olds, some of the 14 and 15 year olds, and almost no percentage of the others. Also worth a bet that the absolute vast majority are solicited by other kids or 18-21 adults.

    I've been solicited for sexual chat, at the very least, by innumerable under-18s over the years online. Any impression that this is an issue of old predators hunting innocent teens going about their non-sexual business online is frankly nuts. As someone pointed out above, dating, flirting and sex is a lot of WHY older teens are online. Including a whole bunch of propositioning for sex on their own part.

  12. David:

    I had heard exactly the same stat, and also felt that the smell test had been failed, but from the other direction. You pointed out that sheer size of the result seemed incredible, but I was looking at the impossibility of making such a determination in the first place.
    If these children were being solicted but keeping it a secret, then how would you know that it occured...., unless it was you doing it! Making such an assertion would require insight into the percentage of children who don't tell their parents..theorically unknowable.

    I believe that the author should be investigated immediately:)

    There are so many bogus studies and statistics floating around, and so many are like this, when you ask yourself how the statistic could be determined, you realise that it's logically impossible to do so. Other studies present findings that could be determined, but the finding itself seems to indicate that the methodology is flawed.

    Last week, my wife and I saw a stat on several news outlets that the average expenditure for Valentine's day was going to drop from $142.50 to $102.50. This seemed pretty high to us so we wondered, did they survey a bunch of men who exaggerated or did they get the info from FTD or Brach's who were trying to make everyone think that they were cheapskates. Maybe I'm just one of the guys pulling this number down.