Third Youth Internet Safety Survey (YISS-3)

Summary: This project aims to help reduce youth risk of victimization through technology use (i.e., Internet, text messaging, webcams).  It will survey a nationally representative sample of 1,500 youth to: 1) continue to track existing trends in the number and types of threats youth encounter using technology; 2) assess risks to youth of new behaviors and activities, including youth creating and distributing explicit images of themselves and/or peers; 3) assess benefits and utilization of safety programs and technologies, and 4) identify activities and behaviors most closely associated with risk.  Using a design refined in two previous Youth Internet Safety Surveys, a national probability sample of youth ages 10 through 17 will be interviewed by telephone about experiences with technology during the last 12 months.  The design will allow direct comparison to findings from two previous surveys, providing valuable information on trends and new developments.  YISS-3 is funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention sourced from Recovery Act funds.


The CCRC has conducted two comprehensive national assessments of youth Internet safety, completed five years apart -- the first and second Youth Internet Safety Surveys (YISS-1 and YISS-2).  They demonstrated dramatic changes over a period of five years, including marked increases in the amount of Internet harassment and unwanted exposure to pornography, as well as decreases in unwanted sexual solicitations.  Such dramatic changes seen over a relatively short period of time are unusual in social science, supporting the need for a more frequent assessment to track a highly volatile environment.  The goals of the YISS-3 stem from this need.

Goals and Objectives

  • Assess changes in existing trends in the number and types of threats youth encounter using technology in a national sample of 1,500 youth including technology-facilitated sexual solicitations; inappropriate sexual and romantic relationships with older persons; harassing, threatening, and degrading activity (e.g., bullying); and exposure to criminal activities, violence, pornography, and sexual deviance.
  • Identify and quantify in a national sample of youth newly emerging threats related to technology use including: a) the proportion of youth creating and distributing sexually explicit images of themselves and peers and attitudes toward this activity and b) how other technologies (e.g., webcams, digital cameras) may be associated with sexual exploitation.
  • Improve prevention by assessing the degree to which various kinds of safety knowledge, practices, and technologies are disseminated among youth and families and whether the adoption of these practices and technologies are associated with reduction in risks.
  • Improve prevention education by assessing which types of technology-facilitated activities and behaviors appear to be most associated with risk of exposure to online dangers.


The YISS-3 is a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,500 youth, ages 10 through 17, along with a caretaker who knows the most about that child’s Internet use.  This age range was selected to reflect the developmental period during which independent technology use is beginning and child development is rapidly evolving.  Specific eligibility criteria will include: 

1. Ages 10 through 17 years;
2. English speaking; and
3. Has used the Internet at least once a month for the previous six months from any location – home, school, friend’s home, etc. 

Although this study will enquire into a broad range of technologies used by youth, the eligibility criteria will match those of the previous YISS-1 and YISS-2 surveys for comparability.
The YISS-3 telephone interviews will be designed and implemented similarly to those in YISS-1 and YISS-2.  Interviewers from a professional interviewing firm will use random digit dialing to construct a sample of 1,500 households with children meeting the eligibility criteria above.  Interviewers will identify the child in the household who uses the Internet most often and then ask to speak with the caregiver who knows the most about the child’s Internet use.  Interviewers will then conduct a short interview about Internet safety methods used in the household, as well as household demographic characteristics.  At the close of the caregiver interview, the interviewer will request permission to speak with the previously identified youth.  Caregivers will be assured of the confidentiality of the interview, told that their child will receive a check for $10, and informed the interview will include questions about “sexual material your child may have seen.”
With caregiver consent, interviewers will describe the study to the child and obtain his or her verbal assent.  Youth interviews will last about 20 minutes.  They will be scheduled at the convenience of youth participants, and arranged for times when they can talk freely.  Youth participants will be informed of complete confidentiality and told they can skip any questions they do not want to answer and stop the interview at any time. 
The YISS-3 will be conducted under the supervision of the University of New Hampshire’s Human Subjects Committee and conform to the rules mandated by research projects funded by the Department of Justice.

For More Information Contact:

Kimberly J. Mitchell, PhD
Crimes against Children Research Center