CROUSE: Parents must protect kids from porn

Ubiquitous sex sites impossible to avoid on Web

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The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11, often because of stumbling onto sites while doing homework. Children 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 such as “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 such as “toys” or a popular children’s character such as “Pokemon” 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 pornographic, while 260 new porn sites go online every second every day. On top of this, nearly 30,000 Internet users are viewing porn and 35 percent of all Internet downloads are porn.

Suchstatistics 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 31 hours a week online and nearly two hours a week looking at pornography. The implications for their intellectual and emotional well-being should not be taken lightly. One in four teenagers said 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 abused 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 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 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 increasingly graphic and violent. Some experts think 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 usually are adults whom the child knows well - an uncle, cousin, neighbor or teacher. We also know that many who access child pornography are what experts call “explorers,” meaning 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 troubling to authorities and parents because it increases the demand for and supply of pornographic images among 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 percent to 70 percent of the child-porn reports they receive involve this type of activity. Undercover police officers in 18 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. 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 Crouseis director of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute and author of “Children at Risk”(Transaction, 2010) in which portions of this article appear.

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