Researchers say using filtering and blocking software can significantly lower exposure to online sexual material among youth.
The research team from University of New Hampshire Crimes against Children Research Centre showed that unwanted exposure to sexual material occurred in 32 percent of youth in homes with pop-up/spam blockers and 25 percent of youth in homes with filtering, blocking, or monitoring software on the home computer, compared to 43 percent of households without preventive software installed on the home computer.
"The software looks to be helpful. But even for those with the software, the exposure rate is far from zero," said David Finkelhor, director of the UNH Crimes against Children Research Centre.
"That means we still have to find other ways to prevent unwanted exposure. There's no silver bullet. Any effective strategy is going to need to use multiple approaches," he added.
In comparison to youth using home computers without preventative software, youth using home computers with pop-up/spam blockers were 59 percent less likely to report unwanted exposure to sexual material on the home computer.
Those using home computers with filtering, blocking, or monitoring software were 65 percent less like to report exposure to sexual material.
The preventative software significantly reduced risk of unwanted exposure for youth ages 10 to 15 years old.
They recommend parents and caregivers of boys and girls ages 15 years old and younger who want to reduce the likelihood of unwanted exposure to sexual material on the home computer should consider including preventive software - especially filtering, blocking, or monitoring software - in their Internet safety plan.