Parents who have seen “To Catch a Predator” on Dateline NBC are asking how much they should be worrying about their social-networking kids. They need to know that the Predator series is no representation of risks to youth on the social Web. It’s not even presenting a credible picture of sexual predation in general, we find in an in-depth look at the social costs of producing “The Shame Game” in the Columbia Journalism Review. It shows how Dateline is fueling public fears not because it’s representing reality but because it’s representing reality TV. In this week’s issue of my newsletter, I look at how Dateline has presented the numbers, an actual figure from state attorneys general, and the best figures we have on noncriminal risks confronting (and created by) teens on the social Web – plus one very notable figure on the positive side of social networking – that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline gets more than 100,000 referrals a year from MySpace alone. I hope this reality check can help broaden the public discussion.
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