Citation: Mitchell, Kimberly et al. “The Exposure of Youth to Unwanted Sexual Material on the Internet: A National Survey of Risk, Impact and Prevention.” Youth and Society. Vol. 34 No. 3, March 2003: 330-358. Accessed 6 April 2009. .
The authors of the study gave a survey to 1,501 Internet-users between the ages of 10 and 17, asking them about their inadvertent exposure to sexually explicit content while online. The results found that 25 % of those polled unintentionally encountered sexually explicit material while on the Internet. The people who discovered sexual content tended to be heavy Internet users and were older teens. About one-fifth of those who accidentally viewed the content were embarrassed and very or extremely upset by it. The minors whose parents had put filtering software on their computers were 40 % less likely to have been exposed to unwanted sexual material. However, most parents did not install filtering softwares on computers. Other forms of parental control, such as restricting the amount time their children could spend on the Internet, did not reduce chance of exposure.
This study is significant to my paper for a few reasons. Firstly, the experiment established that children are inadvertently exposed to sexual content, and that this exposure can cause harm. Knowing that sexual material on the Internet is a problem establishes a greater need for remedies to the situation. Additionally, this study is important because it measures the effectiveness of different types of controls on preventing youth exposure to sexually explicit material in a relatively scientific manner. Since filtering was determined to be more effective than parental restrictions, yet was not perfect at preventing exposure to the content, perhaps resources should be devoted to improving filtering softwares and persuading parents to install filtering programs on their children’s computers. The authors noted that a problem with the study could be that adolescents who have filtering softwares on their computers happen to be more likely to use the web in ways that would shield them from exposure to sexual content, and not the other way around. If this is the case, perhaps the best way to protect minors from harmful content is to educate them better about smart Internet use.