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Study: 30% of teen girls rendevous with online friends

COLUMBUS, Ohio – New research at an Ohio hospital is calling attention to the perils that await teenage girls online.

A study at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has found that 30 percent of teen girls report meeting with people they met first on the Internet.

The research shows those meetings are more likely to happen for girls who engage in high-risk behaviors and its lead author says those who troll the web for vulnerable teens are looking for a specific type of online profile.

“A girl who maybe has maybe put herself in a bikini, or describes herself as a sexual person, or describes herself as someone who is willing to engage in some sexual conversation. Then that might be the person that you stop and talk to,” psychologist Dr. Jennie Noll said.

Another point of concern for Noll is that abused or neglected teenage girls are more likely to present themselves online in a sexually provocative way.

Noll says parents can do a lot to change their child’s behavior but need to be willing to have those hard conversations about the dangers online without prompting the child to shut down the lines of communication if she thinks she is being spied on.

One suggestion is to ask them to educate you.

“Engage them by saying ‘hey, help me figure this out. How can I follow you on Twitter?’ or ‘what does this hashtag thing mean?’ and they’re actually educating me, and by doing so I’m creating a bond of trust, and I can have conversations in the midst of that about dangerous ways to present themselves,” Noll said.

She says talk to your children about the consequences of their online behavior without being accusing or shaming.

The study, which is part of a larger body of Noll’s work on high-risk Internet behavior, was published in the eFirst pages of the journal Pediatrics.

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