Protecting our Children from Porn
The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is eleven years old; often because of stumbling onto sites while doing homework. Kids searching “White House” can easily end up typing “com” instead of “gov” and end up at a porn site. Type into Google’s image search engine words like “pretty,” “beautiful,” “cute,” or virtually any girl’s name, and if the “safe search filter” is not properly activated many of the images that come up are sexually explicit in the extreme. Pornographers purchase domain names knowing that web surfers can unintentionally end up at their site. A child typing in a word like “toys” or a popular children’s character like “Pokémon” or “Beanie Babies” can be misdirected to a porn site. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 70 percent of teenagers have accidentally come across pornography on the web.
Most parents would be shocked to learn the statistics about Internet porn. GOOD magazine provides some staggering information about the pornography industry:
- 12 percent of all Internet sites are pornography
- 260 new porn sites go online daily
- every second, nearly 30,000 Internet users are viewing porn
- 35 percent of all Internet downloads are porn
Such statistics lend urgency to the recommendation that parents teach their children online safety in the same way that they approach other childhood danger areas. A British study indicates that teenagers spend an average of thirty-one hours a week online and nearly two hours a week looking at pornography. The implications for their intellectual and emotional well-being should not to be taken lightly. One in four teenagers said that they regularly communicated with strangers online but considered it harmless. TopTenReviews.com reveals that nearly 90 percent of sexual solicitations of youth were made in chat rooms. The implications of these facts are a cause for concern for any thinking person. Obviously, today’s parents need to address healthy sexuality and healthy sexual attitudes sooner rather than later in an age-appropriate manner.
It’s bad enough for children to stumble across pornography on the screen of their cell phone or computer. Even worse is that behind every pornographic image of a child on the more than 100,000 child pornography websites, there is a real child who is being personally violated and commercially exploited, often in horrific and dehumanizing ways. These child victims are exploited over and over again as their images are forever cast out into cyberspace to be downloaded and traded by child pornographers every day through the thousands of child porn Internet sites.
These developments are not merely another increase in a continuum. By the mid-1980s, child porn was almost completely eradicated; it was too difficult and expensive to deliver and very risky to produce or purchase. Back then, peddlers and purchasers of child pornography had to know someone to make the connection to receive pornography, usually in a brown paper envelope. With the advent of the Internet, however, the porn problem re-emerged and exploded exponentially. With a click of the mouse, child pornography is available now from any computer. In addition, the continuing quest for something new and different drives those in the grip of pornography to demand images of younger and younger children and images that are more and more graphic and violent. Some experts believe that there is a tipping point at which those who engage in what they call “online sexual deviancy” decide to act out what they have seen and, thus, become a danger to the children around them. We know that those who harm children are usually adults whom the child knows well — an uncle, cousin, neighbor, or teacher. We also know that many who access child pornography are what the experts call “explorers,” meaning that they got started viewing child pornography because of the easy access. These “explorers” spend many hours and thousands of dollars surfing child porn websites.
Peer-to-peer contacts are another avenue for transmitting and receiving child pornography. An article in the Buffalo News last year revealed that at least half of the child pornography produced is traded for free. The traders download free images off the Internet and then barter them to obtain other images. This development is very troubling to authorities and to parents because it increases the demand for and supply of pornographic images among the “explorers.” Child molesters take pornographic photographs or video images of family members or neighborhood children and then trade those images. Amazingly, officials at the CyberTipline estimate that 60 to 70 percent of the child porn reports they receive involve this type of activity. Undercover police officers in eighteen countries scoured online sites for free child pornography in chat rooms, news groups, bulletin boards, and Internet networks. They found that the most activity was in the United States, which accounted for more than one-third of the proposed transactions.
That’s just what we needed. Instead of America, the home of the free and brave, we now have the distinction of being the land of the porn addicted, cowardly child sex slavers.
Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D., author of Children at Risk (Transaction, 2010), is Director and Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute. Portions of this article appear in chapter five of Children at Risk (pp. 85-96).
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