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Press Release:

MEDIA CONTACT: Lisa Freed
561-297-3022, lfreed@fau.edu

FAU Professor Completes Project Examining Victimization Risk of Youth on MySpace  

BOCA RATON, FL (January 3, 2007) Dr. Sameer Hinduja, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice in the College of Architecture, Urban and Public Affairs at Florida Atlantic University recently completed “Personal Information of Adolescents on the Internet: A Quantitative Content Analysis of MySpace,” a first-of-its-kind research study of teenagers’ MySpace profiles.

MySpace has received a significant amount of negative attention by the popular media, as well as by parents, teachers, school administrators, counselors, and even law enforcement,” said Hinduja. “We wanted to collect data to determine how many youth were including identifying information on their MySpace profile pages that a predator could potentially use to locate them.”

            Using a randomly-selected sample of 1,500 teen profiles available for public viewing on MySpace, Hinduja, along with Dr. Justin Patchin, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and student researchers at UW-Eau Claire and FAU, documented the number of profiles that included a teen's first name, full name, birth date, telephone number, postal address, e-mail address, instant messaging screen name, city, state and name of their school. They also looked for evidence of: alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drug use; photos; pictures of teens in swimsuits/underwear; and swear words.
            Some of the findings included:

  • Almost 57 percent of the profiles included at least one photo of the teen, often of themselves with family, friends or people they met at a social gathering. Many others provided detailed descriptions of their personal appearance.
  • Almost 40 percent of the profiles included the youth's first name, and about 9 percent included their full name.
  • About 81 percent of the youth included the name of the city in which they live, and another 28 percent named the school they attend.
  • About 4 percent included their instant messaging name, and 1 percent included their e-mail address.
  • About 18 percent of the sites included evidence of alcohol use, 7 percent included evidence of tobacco use and 2 percent included evidence of marijuana use.
  • Nearly 20 percent of the profiles included profanity, and almost 33 percent of the sites included swear words in the posted comments.

“Our results indicated that youth are in fact posting personal and identifying information, but perhaps not to the extent that many believe. The vast majority of adolescents are demonstrating common sense in this area - which we're pleased to see,” said Hinduja. “That being said, some teenagers still appear to be uninformed or overly trusting, and parents and educators would do well to continue to underscore the importance of online safety to all youthful populations.”

            Hinduja and Patchin presented some preliminary findings of their MySpace study in September 2006 at the Midwestern Criminal Justice Association annual conference in Chicago, and will be presenting the rest of their findings in March 2007 at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences annual conference in Seattle.

            For more information, contact Dr. Sameer Hinduja at 561-799-8227, or by e-mail at hinduja@fau.edu. Dr. Justin Patchin can be reached at 715-836-4058, or by e-mail at patchinj@uwec.edu.

-FAU-

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