(Gawkwire.com) – Before they graduate high school 50% of teens will have abused illicit drugs and even more will try alcohol. Parents often find themselves trying to occupy their teen’s free time by engaging them in constructive activities like afterschool clubs and sports – many parents find that this kind of structured time keeps their kids off the streets, out of bad neighborhoods and out of trouble. Unfortunately, many parents are now finding out the hard way that restrictive measures are no longer enough, and that bad neighborhoods are infiltrating their homes through the household computer via the world wide web.

“Often times we see parents who thought they were doing a great job monitoring their kids, only to discover that their kids had been using the internet to get drugs, gamble or set up sexual encounters,” said Chris Shumow, co-founder of VISIONS.

To provide some perspective, a recent study found the following:

• 78% of American teens age 12-17 have access to a computer in their home.
• 57% reported discussing sexual behavior online (43% of the boys and 79% of the girls).
• 41% of the adolescents discovered new drugs online
• 41% of the adolescents reported learning about new ways to use drugs online
• 41% reported talking about violence online

One of the chief dangers online is the easy availability of prescription medication from unscrupulous mail order pharmacies. Often times these website purport to be legitimate, and some even offer consultation with a doctor, which can lead a teen to believe that this kind of behavior is safe.  However, the reality is that acquiring prescription drugs without a visit to a legitimate doctor can have deadly consequences.

“Allowing kids to have free rein on the internet is just as dangerous as letting them walk through the worst neighborhood in town in the middle of the night.  Parents need to ensure that they are monitoring their kids, and that they have the necessary computer skills to do so,” said Shumow.

There are a variety of ways to address this problem, including moving the family computer to a common area, installing a keystroke logging program or an internet content filter, and restricting the time that the computer may be used.

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