To tell or not to tell? Youth’s responses to unwanted Internet experiences


This study is one of the first that investigated youth’s response to unwanted Internet experiences, not only for those youth who were bothered or distressed but for all youth who reported the experience. Three types of response were examined: telling someone about the incident and ending the unwanted situation by active or passive coping. Responses to the following unwanted Internet experiences were analysed: Sexual solicitation, online harassment and unwanted exposure to pornography. The study was based on data from the Third Youth Internet Safety Survey (YISS-3), a telephone survey with a nationally representative U.S. sample of 1,560 Internet users, ages 10 to 17, and their caretakers. Youth’s responses to unwanted Internet experiences differ depending on the type of unwanted experiences, whether they are distressed or have other negative reactions caused by the incident and – to some degree – other youth characteristics and incident characteristics. For example, not all youth who are distressed tell someone and not all youth who tell someone are distressed. Also, the reasons for telling may differ depending on whom they tell, and youth tell somebody less often about their victimization if they also are online perpetrators, but of different types of unwanted Internet experiences. Internet safety information for parents and parents’ active mediation of Internet safety does not seem to result in youth telling more often about unwanted Internet experiences.

Bibliographic citation

Priebe, G., Mitchell, K. J., & Finkelhor, D. (2013). To tell or not to tell? Youth’s responses to unwanted Internet experiences. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 7(1), Article 6. doi:


coping; disclosure; online harassment; Internet; youth

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