Crossing off the list

I recently had the opportunity to interview Ryan Foley, the vice president of Covenant Eyes, a company that provides tools for internet accountability and filtering.

As Foley explained, despite the fact that many families are aware of how rampant pornography is, somehow they don’t think their family is going to be impacted — and certainly not their children. So, they don’t bother to take advantage of safety and filter mechanisms on the computers, TVs, cellphones and other outlets. To add insult to injury, they buy whatever their children want without giving the items much thought. Big mistakes, according to not only Covenant Eyes but a long list of experts.

Many of us have already begun our efforts to plow through the Christmas gift list in hopes of getting the shopping done early this year. And on those wish lists, many are certain to find one or more of the latest and greatest pieces of technology. For those considering giving cellphones or tablets, hopefully you’ll find a recent report by the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) helpful regarding what to avoid on that Christmas list.

Last month, the ACP, which describes itself as “a national organization of pediatricians and other health care professionals dedicated to the health and well-being of children,” released a sobering summary report on the effects of porn, entitled simply, “The Impact of Pornography on Children.”

“The availability and use of pornography has become almost ubiquitous among adults and adolescents,” the report’s summary stated. “Consumption of pornography is associated with many negative emotional, psychological and physical health outcomes. These include increased rates of depression, anxiety, acting out and violent behavior, younger age of sexual debut, sexual promiscuity, increased risk of teen pregnancy and a distorted view of relationships between men and women.”

That statement should be enough for most of us to think twice before giftwrapping the latest phone, laptop or tablet for the young person in our life. However, the ACP goes even further, saying experts really have only begun to understand the far-reaching and long-term harmful effects porn has on children. They do know, however, that porn exposure is a problem that’s on the rise but often ignored.

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“A large survey of American young people revealed that 51 percent of males and 32 percent of females claimed to have viewed pornography for the first time before they were 13 years old. In a 2012 Australian study of pornography use, men who were frequent pornography users said that their first exposure was between the ages of 11 to 13 years old. Similar findings were recorded in a 2009 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, which found that 85 percent of adolescent males and 50 percent of adolescent females had been exposed to pornographic material. Clearly, pornography has become pervasive throughout modern American society. Research, however, is only beginning to delineate its impact upon children, adolescents and adults.”

So before you head off to your local electronics store, put the credit card back in your wallet and take a close look at what the American College of Pediatricians has to say about the impact of technology — or more precisely, the impact of being able to easily access pornography through various gizmos and gadgets — is having on your children and grandchildren. Given the evidence, crossing the bells and whistles off the list this year could be the best gift ever. And the gift that keeps on giving.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.