Parents, take heed. Summer means fun and sun for young people, but there could be a dark side to all that free time. Is your teen home alone? Are the computers in your house protected from porn sites? Unfortunately, it s possible your students are finding sexually explicit material online that could hurt their emotional, spiritual and even physical health.

Our TopTenREVIEWS Google Analytics data reveals a dramatic increase   indeed a 4,700% jump   in searches for the term "porn" in the days immediately following the end of school for most students. While falling short of scientific proof, it's a strong indicator of what many youngsters may be doing on their summer vacation.

There could be many explanations for this dramatic change in numbers, but there is no question it coincides with the time most schools get out.

Since parents are busy and cannot constantly stand guard over computer use, a little electronic help might come in handy. Internet filter software can offer some reassurance to parents that their children are protected from material that parents deem objectionable.

The internet filter software on the market today allows parents to block websites and chat rooms that parents deem inappropriate. This software can do much more including such things as filtering emails, monitoring social media sites and sending parents email alerts if someone using a computer is accessing objectionable content.

Academic studies have shown that young people who are exposed to sexually explicit material before age 18 are more likely to become promiscuous, get pregnant, test positive for a sexually transmitted disease and engage in forced sex.

Nothing takes the place of heart-to-heart talks between parents and children about values, human sexuality and the things that are considered healthy, respectful and worthwhile according to a particular family s principles.

However, internet filter software can shield children from images, language, videos and other depictions of behaviors that are contrary to the parents  standards. It could be another tool to help parents get involved in the already complicated task of trying to raise healthy, well-adjusted children.

Dr. Mary Anne Layden, director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program,
Center for Cognitive Therapy in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of  The Social Costs of Pornography: A Statement of Findings and Recommendations. 

"There is evidence that the prevalence of pornography in the lives of many children and adolescents is far more significant than most adults realize, that pornography is deforming the healthy sexual development of these young viewers, and that it is used to exploit children and adolescents,  Layden wrote.

How does it deform them?

In a telephone interview, Layden said academic studies show that there are 23 unhealthy behaviors that people exposed to "sexualized media" before the age of 18 are more likely to display. These can include a greater likelihood to have sex earlier in life, have multiple partners, engage in forced sex, test positive for Chlamydia, be more accepting of sexual harassment and become juvenile offenders.

 Are any of those things the kind of things we want for our kids?  Layden said.  My own research shows that pornography is mis-education about sex. It lies about sex. 

For example, she said pornography shows that women love to be degraded and violently hurt, which is not true in real life. It also depicts men as vicious, narcissistic and out of control   which is also not true, she said.

 This is hate speech against men and hate speech against women,  Layden said.  It sends the wrong message about people, relationships and functions. Porn doesn t say anything about love or commitment or caring. It also doesn t say anything about producing children. 

The blunt-talking and often controversial Layden said she tells parents,  You ve got to say to children:  There won t be any porn in this home  and then take strong measures to keep it away from impressionable youngsters.

 It s good to talk to the kids, but I think prevention is 100 percent better,  Layden said.

At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To. 

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