| (excerpted and
paraphrased from Kids Online:Protecting Your Children In Cyberspace)
When I first discovered what types of pornography are being generated
on the Internet, I was alarmed. But when I actually saw the depraved
material available on the Internet to any child who stumbles across
it, I was truly repulsed and saddened. The common practice of today's
Internet "pornopreneur" is the posting of free teaser images on
their web sites as enticements to solicit new subscribers. Any child
with unrestricted Internet access can view these free pictures through
accidentally accessing such sites or by deliberately searching them
out. Any computer-literate child can view adult pornography, such
as images that appear in Playboy or Penthouse, as
well as pornography that is prosecutable as obscenity, which might
include pictures of women having sex with animals; men engaged in
sexual acts with children; and the rape, torture, and mutilation
Children can access such pornography in two ways: unintentionally
Children can inadvertently access pornography in several ways:
- Innocent, imprecise, misdirected
In an effort to increase traffic to their sites, pornographic
Web site operators use popular terms. When children key in their
favorite search terms, pornographic sites pop up along with the
sites the children are seeking. The search engines don't distinguish
between an adult's hit and a child's hit.
- Stealth sites and misleading URLs
Many children seeking information on the nation's White House,
may find themselves on a porn site instead of the official site
at www.whitehouse.gov. Pornographers purchase domain names such
as the .com equivalent of a popular .gov or .org website, knowing
full well that web surfers are likely to end up on their pornographic
site instead of their desired destination.
- Innocent word searches
Innocent word searches on many popular search engines can lead
an unsuspecting child to numerous porn sites. Examples incude
such words as toys, boys, Britney Spears and dogs.
- The misuse of brand names
- According to a recent study in England, 26 popular children's
characters, such as Pokemon, My Little Pony and Action Man,
revealed thousands of links to porn sites. 30% of the sites
were hard-core. (Envisional 2000)
- 25% of porn sites are estimated to misuse popular brand
names in search engine magnets, metatags and links. Three
of the top ten brand names used are specifically targeted
to children - Disney, Barbie, and Nintendo. (Cyveillance Survey,
- The need to constantly say no
A reporter shared with me how her nine-year-old son (who couldn't
care less about girls or sex at his age) did a search for Beanie
Babies. He found many links to Beanies, and "Hot Cyber Babes!!"
also appeared in the list. If he had clicked on that link, her
son would have been connected to that site and able to freely
view pornographic pictures. Once he viewed the free pictures,
the site would have required a credit card number and an adult
password. Without saying no at least three times, he would
have seen the free pictures and damage would have been done. The
constant need to say no conflicts with a child's natural curiosity.
If a child, out of curiosity or carelessness, clicks on such links,
he or she may be exposed to material that can never be erased
from the mind.
- Unsolicited e-mail
Unsolicited commercial e-mail messages are referred to as spam.
Spammers can get e-mail addresses in many ways and they send hundreds
of thousands of pieces of junk e-mail every day. They try to boost
traffic by advertising pornography for sale and "make-money-fast"
In the case of pornographic spam, children open their e-mail and
find direct access links to pornographic sites. Many of these
e-mails contain subject lines that are deceptive; for example,
"Please Help Me." Who wouldn't open mail with that subject heading?
Children and adults are unable to determine the mail's true contents
until the mail is opened and read, and by that time the damage
is done. In addition, some Web browsers automatically open to
display images that may be pornographic. Also disturbing is the
fact that a child can be automatically switched to an adult Web
page-exhibiting sexually explicit images-without even clicking
on the link!
- Instant Messages (IMs)
Children are also vulnerable to receiving pornographic content
through private, real-time communication with sexual predators.
In addition, when certain people think that their identities are
somewhat anonymous and they have a captive audience, they take
the opportunity to direct flames (abusive or vulgar messages)
to others, including children.
Even the most diligent parental guidance and supervision sometimes
do not deter a child who is determined to view pornography on the
Internet. Children have access to computers and the Internet not only
at home, but in many other places-at school, libraries, or the home
of a friend. Though your child may not directly access pornography,
he or she may come into contact with other children who are, since
online pornography is widely available to the public at large. In
the past, those who wanted to view hard-core pornography, particularly
that which might be prosecutable, had to overcome the embarrassment
of others watching them enter an adult bookstore or peep show. Obviously
it was very difficult for children to see hard-core pornography with
these limitations. Even soft-core "men's" magazines are not sold to
minors or displayed so minors can see them.
With the advent of online pornography, however, there has been
a boom in new and younger pornography users. According to The Kaiser
Family Foundation report (found at www.kff.org),
70% of teenages (ages 15-17 "have accidently come across pornography
on the Web." Since adolescent males make up one of the largest consumer
groups of pornography, and their access on the Internet is largely
unrestricted, they may be facing an even more serious problem-sexual
addiction. See the Porn Addiction
section for more on this problem.