Girls, and kids with low self-control, were more likely to be sexually harassed online. (Representational Image)
It's not just strangers who target children online. One in four children is being sexually harassed by people they are closest to over the internet, according to a new research.
The study led by a Michigan State University (MSU) cybercrime expert is one of the first to examine the factors of online child sexual victimisation.
Girls, and kids with low self-control, were more likely to be sexually harassed online. But the biggest surprise was the finding that 24 percent of study participants were sexually harassed over the internet.
"This is not to downplay the danger of paedophiles acting online, but it does draw attention to the potential threat of child sexual victimisation by the people our kids are closest to, the people they spend the greatest amount of time with online," said Thomas J Holt, associate professor of criminal justice from MSU.
The children said they were pressured by their friends online to talk about sex when they did not want to, according to the study involving 439 middle- and high-school students aged 12-16.
Parental-filtering software or keeping the computer in an open space such as the family living room did not seem to reduce the problem.
"But parents need to have that talk with their kids about what they are doing online and what people are asking them to do online," Holt said, adding "That kind of open dialogue is one of the best things they can do to minimise the risk."
The study recently appeared online in the Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice.