As Director of the Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC) at UNH, David Finkelhor credits the worldwide success of the CCRC’s cutting-edge research to the tremendous support UNH provides. Since coming to UNH in 1976, Finkelhor has conducted research and published on the subjects of child maltreatment, family violence, sexual abuse, child homicide, and missing and abducted children, establishing him as a leader in these fields. The recipient of many grants and awards, he finds much pride in the growth and success he’s seen in the CCRC, which he attributes to the fact that he is surrounded by incredibly passionate and hard-working colleagues and collaborators.
In particular, he notes that the CCRC is pioneering research on an issue of increasing concern: youth and the Internet. Finkelhor acknowledges that it is a complicated topic. “It’s about learning skills in discrimination,” he says. “We’re in a very alarmist phase in the development of Internet citizenship skills. People haven’t figured out yet what works, what it is safe. That’s where social sciences come in. We’re trying to help provide awareness.”
Approaching youths and their relationship with the Internet from a social science perspective is helping to shed a new light on the issue. Some common misconceptions are that many children fall victim to sexual assault through the Internet, or that there is a high occurrence of “sexting” and sending explicit pictures, which raises concerns about child pornography. CCRC research has shown that cases of these events are lower than one might think. Kids these days are more conscious than they are given credit for, and social media has come to play an important and valuable role in healthy relationships. By shifting focus from alarmist views, Finkelhor hopes to address more relevant concerns.