Girls More Likely to be Contacted by Strangers Online

Posting photos and creating social networking profiles increases stranger contact rates.

by / October 16, 2007

Teen girls who post photos online and teens who create social networking profiles report higher rates of online contact by people unknown to them than boys or teens who do not post photos or maintain social networking profiles, according to recent analysis by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The "Teens and online stranger contact report," released Sunday, found that teenagers who create social networking profiles and post pictures online are more likely to receive contact from online strangers and that girls are more likely than boys to have unwanted encounters.

Fully 32 percent of online teens have been contacted by someone with no connection to them or any of their friends, and 7 percent of online teens say they have felt scared or uncomfortable as a result of contact by an online stranger. Although several factors are associated with high levels of stranger contact, the large majority of these interactions are benign.

Several behaviors are associated with high levels of online stranger contact, including social networking profile ownership, posting photos online and using social networking sites to flirt. Although several factors are linked with increased levels of stranger contact in general, gender is the only variable with a consistent association with contact that is scary or uncomfortable--girls are much more likely to report scary or uncomfortable contact than boys.