This study examined various problematic Internet experiences to determine if they were distinctly different from or extensions of the conventional adolescent mental and behavioral health problems seen by clinicians.
Findings suggest the existence of four mutually exclusive groups of youth receiving mental health treatment with an Internet-related problem: online victimization, inappropriate sexual behavior online, online isolation, and online and offline problems. One in seven youths between the ages of 10 and 17 received unwanted sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet in the last year; 4 percent received an aggressive sexual solicitation in which a solicitor asked to meet them somewhere, called them on the telephone, and /or sent them regular mail, money, or gifts; females were more prominent in this cluster. Exposure to Internet pornography may increase the number of youths with deviant sexual interests, who might not otherwise have developed them. Youths who were sexually assaulting a younger sibling or friend were reported by clinicians who typically spoke of a clear relationship between the aggressor’s viewing of both child and adult pornography on the Internet and the sexual offense; clinicians reported that their clients desired to try out what was seen in the images with others. Some youth who viewed pornography did not assault another child, but were sexually promiscuous or had mental disorders that impaired their judgment. Some youth seen in clinical settings had problems with online isolation, either from choosing to have all social interaction online, or spending so much time engaged in online pursuits that they isolated themselves from family, friends, and social engagements; males were more prominent in this cluster. One group of youth exhibited problems related to overuse, sexual exploitation, abuse victimization, and computer or Internet addiction; these youths harassed others online. Clinicians provided data on 512 cases involving youth under 18 years of age, who had a problematic Internet experience in the last 5 years. Implications for mental health professional working with the youth population are discussed. Tables, references
Date Published: January 1, 2007
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