The Prevalence of Unwanted Online Sexual Exposure and Solicitation Among Youth: A Meta-Analysis

J Adolesc Health. 2018 Aug;63(2):133-141. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.03.012. Epub 2018 Jun 18.


Purpose: The objective of this meta-analysis was to provide a synthesis of studies examining the prevalence of unwanted online exposure and solicitation of a sexual nature among youth, and to determine if prevalence varies by youth age, gender, year of study data collection, or study geographical location.

Method: Eligible studies from January 1990 to January 2016 were identified utilizing a comprehensive search strategy. Included studies examined the prevalence of unwanted online exposure and solicitation in youth who ranged from 12 to 16.5 years. Two independent coders extracted all relevant data. Random-effects meta-analyses were used to derive mean prevalence rates.

Results: Thirty-one (37,649 participants) and nine (18,272 participants) samples were included in the syntheses on unwanted online sexual exposure and solicitation, respectively. For online exposure, the mean prevalence rate was 20.3% (95% confidence interval: 17.1-23.4). For online solicitation, the mean prevalence rate was 11.5% (95% confidence interval: 9.4-13.6). Moderator analyses indicated that prevalence rates for unwanted online exposure and solicitation have decreased over time. Prevalence varied as a function of gender (solicitations were higher for males), but not age or geographical location.

Conclusions: Approximately one in five youth experience unwanted online exposure to sexually explicit material and one in nine youth experience online sexual solicitation. Educational campaigns to raise awareness of Internet risks and safety strategies are warranted.

Keywords: Adolescent; Internet; Meta-analysis; Solicitation; Unwanted exposure to explicit material.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Erotica*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior*