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  Donna Rice Hughes

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How Children Access
Pornography on the Internet

(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 of women.

Children can access such pornography in two ways: unintentionally and intentionally.

Unintentional Access
Children can inadvertently access pornography in several ways:

  • Innocent, imprecise, misdirected searches
    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 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, 1999)

  • 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" schemes.

    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.
Intentional Access
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, 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.


© 2001 by Donna Rice Hughes. Request permission if you wish to reprint or post.