Purpose: This study was designed to track trends in reports of unwanted sexual solicitations, harassment, and unwanted exposure to pornography via the Internet between 2000 and 2005 across various demographic sub-groups of youth.
Methods: Cross-sectional data was collected in two equivalent national telephone surveys of 1500 Internet users, ages 10 through 17 years. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were used to determine whether the percentage of youth reporting specific unwanted Internet experiences had changed in 2005, as compared with 2000.
Results: The overall incidence and 5-year trends of reporting unwanted sexual solicitations, harassment, and unwanted exposure to pornography varied by age, gender, race, and household income. In particular, the decline in the percentage of youth reporting sexual solicitations was apparent for both boys and girls, all age groups, but not among minority youth and those living in less affluent households. The increase in harassment among particular sub-groups of youth was largely explained by increases in amount of Internet use over the past five years. The increase in unwanted exposure to pornography was particularly apparent among 10- to 12-year-olds, 16- to 17-year-olds, boys, and White, non-Hispanic youth.
Conclusions: The decline in the percentage of youth reporting sexual solicitations may be the effect of education and law enforcement activity on this issue in the intervening years. Targeted prevention efforts for minority youth and those living in less affluent households need to be developed. The rise in unwanted pornography exposure may reflect technological changes such as digital photography, faster Internet connections and computer storage capacities, as well as the more aggressive marketing strategies of pornography merchants.