Growing online sex threat for Swedish girls

More than 60 percent of Swedish teenage girls have received unwanted sexual overtures over the internet, according to fresh figures presented on Tuesday.

Specifically, 21 percent of girls ages 15 to 18 said that someone had tried to get them to talk about sex over the internet against their wishes or sent them unsolicited pictures with sexual content.

In addition, 41 percent reported having been approached on more than one occasion, the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper reports.

The results come from the latest installment of the Ungdomsbarometer (‘Youth barometer’), a study produced annually by Cosmos Communications designed to shed light on the habits and attitudes of Swedish young people and is based on online interviews with 10,000 15- to 24-year-olds.

Åsa Landberg, a psychologist with Save the Children, says the internet makes it easy for sexual predators to find potential young victims by employing a technique known as “grooming”.

“With the help of the internet someone can make contact with hundreds or even thousands of children at one time. Thus there is a rather high risk that someone will actually respond,” she told SvD.

In a separate study carried out by the Swedish National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet – Brå) in 2005, 40 percent of respondents reported having received inquiries over the internet with sexual context in the previous 12 months from strangers they thought to be or knew to be an adult.

The growing problem has caught the attention of social minister Göran Hägglund, who recently met with representatives from several internet and telephone operators to help better internet protections for children.

“We had a very good discussion,” Hägglund told the paper, adding that possible measures included additional technical solutions as well as public information campaigns directed at Sweden’s schools.