Report: More Kids Exposed to Online Porn

The number of kids viewing online pornography is increasing, with one in four reporting they’ve at least caught a glimpse of X-rated material on the Internet, and two-thirds of those said the images were uninvited, according to a University of New Hampshire (UNH) study published Monday.

Forty-two percent of Internet users, aged 10 to 17, say they came across some form of online pornography in a recent 12-month span, the study reported. Whether the images were sought out or stumbled upon accidentally, both were related to the use of file-sharing programs to download images, according to the UNH study, which was conducted for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).

Protecting Kids

Online pornography was defined in the study as images of naked people or people having sex. The survey as conducted between March and June 2005, and the results were from a telephone survey of 1,500 Internet users aged 10 to 17.

Although the majority of kids reporting viewing online pornography were in their teen years, a sizable number of preteens, mostly 10- and 11-year-olds, also had been exposed to the sexual images, with 17 percent of boys and 16 percent of girls that age saying the had seen pornography online.

“Internet providers and host sites need to do more to protect youth from unwanted pornography,” Janis Wolak, one of the authors of the study, said. “They need better filtering and blocking and more and easier ways for youth to report problems.”

More than one-third of 16- and 17-year-old boys surveyed said they had intentionally visited X-rated sites in the past year; among girls the same age, 8 percent claimed they had.

Dangerous Activity

The online activity that put kids at the highest risk for unwanted exposure to pornography was the use of file-sharing programs to download images. However, most children had also stumbled onto X-rated images through other “normal” Internet use, according to the researchers.

That use primarily occurred through such common online activities as talking online with friends, visiting chat rooms and playing games.

While filtering and blocking software helps prevent exposure, it is not 100 percent effective, and better methods are needed “to restrict the use of aggressive and deceptive tactics to market pornography online,” the researchers said.

Big Business

Internet pornography is now an immense and lucrative online industry, generating earnings of more than US$12 billion, with one out of every eight Internet Web sites containing pornographic images.

Although there is evidence that most youth are not particularly upset when they encounter unwanted pornography on the Internet, it could have a greater impact on some youth than voluntary encounters with pornography, the study said.

“Some youth may be psychologically and developmentally unprepared for unwanted exposure, and online images may be more graphic and extreme than pornography available from other sources,” it added.

Sexual Predators

In another disturbing trend, online harassment of children jumped 9 percent from a study during the same period last year. The researchers said the increase is consistent with the overall growth of online activity among children.

That steady increase of online activity among younger and younger kids has caused many dangerous problems with online predators.

Over the past year, the world’s most popular meeting place for young people, MySpace, has increased efforts to block convicted sex predators from the site. Kids often use the service to keep up with their friends and meet new people — sharing photos, blogs, music and videos, among other activities.

In December, the social networking site struck a partnership with Sentinel Tech to create the database and has been using it to identify, block or delete the accounts of known sex predators on its service.

It also donated the service sharing to the NCMEC.

“A national database with the cooperation of authorities and businesses that operate online communities could help,” Ernie Allen, CEO of NCMEC, told TechNewsWorld. “MySpace’s donation will enable us to help keep the Internet safer,” he said, “by tracking down those who commit crimes against our children.”

1 Comment

  • I always worry about story like these because they only appeal to people who don’t use the internet. I use the net on a daily basis and have not accidentally stumbled onto porn in years. Back when porn sites were allowed to create look-alike names, such as whitehouse.com, one could accidentally type in the wrong address and get a surprise. Nowadays, one just about has to intentionally look for porn to find it.
    The article does gloss over one detail, that the problem is happening because kids are using file-sharing programs to mostly download copyrighted content illegally. I don’t do that and that might explain the difference. The article doesn’t really delve into that detail because it is one of the primary differences between how adults and kids surf the net. Most adults can afford to buy CDs, but kids have more limited earnings and are more likely to use file-sharing programs to get content that they cannot afford. In most instances, doing so is illegal.
    The primary problem I have with porn being thrown at me is through spam. The problem is less that of porn spam than spam, period. I spend no more time looking at porn spam than I do spam for viagra, phony degrees, and whatever additional multitude of crap that spammers throw my way. It’s that accumulation of unwanted garbage that deluges my mailboxes that I want stopped. I’ve had to abandon email addresses because the spam drowned out the messages I wanted. Put more teeth into anti-spam laws and porn spam will disappear as quickly as regular spam.

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