Strangers are bothering young teenage girls online at an astounding rate, according to a new study released today by Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Some 32 per cent of all teenagers online have been contacted by a total stranger, the research found, with 7 per cent saying they have received unsolicited messages making them feel "scared or uncomfortable". According to the study, teenagers with social networking profiles or online photographs are even more likely to be contacted by strangers.

MySpace and Facebook not to blame

Representatives from Pew Internet & American Life Project said that social networking sites are not "inherently more inviting to scary or uncomfortable contacts than other online activities".

Teenagers who are members of a social network did report a higher percentage of contact though. Some 44 per cent of all teens on a social networking site have received unsolicited messages from a total stranger. Although the proportion of people reporting a "scary or uncomfortable" situation did not jump when social networking was measured alone.

According to the research, it seems posting a picture of yourself online makes you more likely to attract unwanted advances. The study found that 49 per cent of all people with pictures online have been contacted by strangers; 20 per cent of the messages were displeasing to the recipient.

It seems women are the most likely targets of unwanted advances. The study found that girls attract the most strangers online and are the subject of the most uncomfortable forms on online contact. Only 4 per cent of teenage boys received an uncomfortable online message compared to11 per cent of teenage girls.

The internet has quickly become a scary place for teenagers online, and according to the study the situation may not be resolved anytime soon.