Could you be an Internet researcher?

OK, class, let's use this exercise to find out if you might have what it takes to be an Internet researcher:

Imagine two teen-agers, one who has a MySpace (or similar) profile posted online and the second who does not have such a profile posted.

Which of the two do you imagine would be more likely to have been contacted online by a stranger who made them "scared or uncomfortable?"

Those of you with puzzled expressions on your faces may not be cut out for Internet research. No shame in that, because not everyone can be an Internet researcher.

Those who answered "the one with the MySpace profile, duh," get to move on to the next phase of the exercise, although I would caution you to ditch the attitude.

This time we have two different teen-agers, both of whom have posted profiles on a social-networking site such as MySpace. One has included personal photographs on his or her page, while the other has not done so.

Which of the two is more likely to have encountered Mr. Scary-Uncomfortable?

Show of hands: Pictures? ... No pictures?

Outstanding work, class! I see we're all hip to the fact that Mr. Scary-Uncomfortable likes photographs.

OK, final part of the exercise: Yet another pair of MySpace teens, one a girl and one a boy, both of whom report having received online contact from someone they do not know.

Which teen is more likely to tell an Internet researcher that he or she has been creeped out by that Scary-Uncomfortable guy?

I know, I know, some of you are hesitant to answer this one for fear of appearing politically incorrect, but you can be candid here because this is Internet research: Yes, the correct answer is that the girl is more likely to report being creeped out.

That's all the time we have today, class. If you'd like to examine the backup materials for our little exercise you can find them in this report - Teens and Online Stranger Contact - by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Oh, and class, tomorrow we'll be discussing another survey: "Dinnertime Solicitations and Listed Telephone Numbers." Please be prepared to discuss.

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