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Cypriots most avid porn viewers in Europe

By Patrick Dewhurst

CYPRIOTS are among the most avid porn browsers in Europe, according to a leading internet statistics website.

Alexa.com, which publishes data on the most viewed websites in each country, shows a porn site is the 14th most viewed site in Cyprus and Italy. This is the highest ranking of a porn site among EU member states.

The top porn site, which receives over 25 million visits per month, is one of three others to appear in Cypriot browsers' top 50.

This week it ranked ahead of Protathlima.com, Microsoft.com and the popular social networking site, Twitter. It is the 48th most popular site globally, and the 28th in Europe, making Cypriots' use of the site above the global average.

Social networking and sport sites also feature in the top 20, which is led by Google, YouTube and Facebook. Leading sport pages are Kerkida in 9th place, Cyprus Sports Online Newspaper in 10th , and Protathlima.com in 16th.

Europe's least interested porn browsers are Hungarians, who have no porn sites in their top 50, and Bulgaria whose most popular adult site is in 40th place.

All of the porn sites that feature in the top 50 lists for European countries are accessed for free and do not require visitors to log any details. The site allows users to upload their own videos, much like YouTube.

Cyprus has signed and ratified the EU laws regarding pornographic and adult material, and it remains illegal to sell adult material in areas where minors may be present, such as kiosks.

It seems that the tighter the laws on the sale and distribution of porn, the more likely people are to look online. This is supported by the example of Italy, which comprises 12 per cent of the top porn site's visitors, and where it is technically illegal to produce and distribute porn. Conversely, only 0.9 per cent of browsers come from Sweden, where there is no age restriction on buying porn.

Dr George Georgiou PhD, a clinical sexologist, explains that this trend stems from cultural attitudes towards sex.

"Sexuality is a repressed topic in Cyprus, and still quite taboo in traditional families. These websites are popular because they are often the only way for people to satisfy their sexual fantasies without shocking their partners," he said.

Asked what the implications are for such a trend, Georgiou said: "On the one hand, this is a safe outlet for people to explore their sexuality in a non-exploitative and private way. On the other, porn can adversely affect relationships if it is the only outlet for sexual contact. Porn is staged theatre and does not reflect reality - it also lacks the human, emotional and spiritual sides to sexual relationships. People who become addicted to porn will have a distorted view of human relationships that may alienate them from their partners."

Georgiou said minors were more likely to be affected adversely as they lacked emotional and spiritual maturity. In addition, whatever sex education they had tends to focus on the biological aspects only and transcends the psycholo-emotional and spiritual aspects of a relationship, he said.

The ready availability of adult and illegal material may concern parents and groups trying to limit access to explicit material or disturbing material on the web.

One such organisation that addresses this issue is Cyberethics.info, which receives backing from the EC and has representatives in each member state. They aim to advise parents and children on the safe use of the web, and offer a helpline for any points of concern.

Georgina Shitta, Cyprus Coordinator for Cyberethics said: "The use of adult websites by minors is an issue, but this also comes with the teenage years. The problem comes when children at a sensitive age view illegal materials, which can upset their emotional development and wellbeing."

Regarding the heavy use of porn sites among adults, Shitta added "the issue is a social one, and being a warm Mediterranean culture may explain a few things"

Cyberethics.info has set up a helpline for children, parents and teachers who are concerned about the risks posed by the internet. It also offers the kind of psychological support and education recommended by Georgiou, and which might not feature in more restricted or repressed families.

N If you have concerns about your children's internet use, the helpline number is 70 000 116, and you can find more information available at www.cyberethics.info and at www.helpline.cyberethics.info.