As one participant explained: "You have to keep a person interested.
Otherwise they move on." Out of this often-kinky culture arose the celebrated cybersex trial, New York's first Internet-related sexual assault case.
Girls were more likely to be victimized than boys, though gay boys or those who were confused about their sexuality were also susceptible to predators, the study said. On the whole, offenders are a "diverse group that cannot be accurately characterized with one-dimensional labels," the report said.
Researchers did find, however, that a majority of predators who convinced their victims to meet in person did not resort to violence or abduct the children.
The New Hampshire study identified several characteristics that make young Internet users more likely to be targeted by offenders regardless of the platform they use.
Kids who spoke to unknown people online, had unfamiliar people on their buddy lists, freely talked about sex with strangers online, looked for pornographic material on the Internet, or who were routinely "rude or nasty" while online were found to be at greater risk.
The most important facets include blurring of male and female identities, cocktails of fact and fantasy, sharp disjunctions and free associations in thoughts, and the fluid assumption of new personas, all aided and abetted by hyperfast communication in the absence of verbal and visual cues to behavior.
Basically, violent predators tend to be anti-social individuals who generally lack the skills to manipulate kids through online banter.
That pattern "may be changing," however, as different technologies emerge, the study said.
The findings do not mean that teens should have carte blanche to share all the intimate details of their life with 300 of their closest "friends," the study warned.
"Caution should be used in interpreting this small amount of research about a new phenomenon." Sexual predators are not ignoring the social networking space, however.