- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Remember when the hottest Christmas toy was a Tickle Me Elmo doll? This year, kids will be clamoring for Internet-ready cell phones and video iPods. Parents, if the cost doesn’t deter you, consider this: These new gadgets come with ready access to hardcore pornography.

Consider some of the items likely to be on the Christmas wish lists on your refrigerator.

Apple iPod: It’s not just for music anymore. The new iPod is capable of downloading and storing up to 150 hours of video. Porn industry giants — such as Hustler, Penthouse and Playboy — are formatting content for the new hand-held. Another pornographic site, SuicideGirls, reportedly sold 1 million downloads of nude models within a week of the video iPod’s debut.

Camera and video phones: These high-tech phones are able to take short videos or capture and store up to 3 megabytes of digital photos. New phones are also capable of wireless Internet access without filtering software. A disturbing new trend has also emerged as school-age children are using camera phones to take sexually explicit photos of classmates and distribute them, opening themselves up for prosecution under federal child-pornography laws.

Sony PlayStation Portable: This device is Internet-ready and able to download photos and video without filtering from any wireless “hotspot.” Porn producers designed and released pornographic movies for it within weeks of its launch.

This may be news to most, but the warning signs appeared more than a year ago. Wireless companies in Europe and Asia — ahead of the U.S. technology curve — have already been featuring and profiting from mobile pornography for several years. Some believe that more than half of their revenues come from pornographic content.

Thankfully, U.S. wireless companies haven’t yet embraced pornography with the same gusto. Earlier this month, the Cellular Telecommunication Industry Association (CTIA) released content guidelines designed to keep “adult” material out of the hands of children.

Their protection model is based on the mantra of “control” and “choice.” That is, they will help parents control what their children see, but will retain options for those who wish to see violent, degrading and illegal sexual content.

Even the “control” aspect of this plan is problematic. According to CTIA guidelines, content unsuitable for children is defined with terms as such “intense” profanity, “intense” violence and “graphic” sexual activity. When pressed to further define these terms, a CTIA representative admitted that there were no more specific guidelines than these — leaving parents to guess what some industry executive might deem “graphic” or “intense.” CTIA is trying to put forward a good front, but at this point these guidelines are mere type on paper — none of this has been accomplished yet. Kids can still access the Internet on phones and other hand-held devices today.

At this point, no one knows for certain which laws apply to wireless devices. Many believe the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has jurisdiction since a wireless signal uses public airwaves, but the FCC has yet to develop guidelines for this emerging technology. Complicating matters, the Department of Justice has yet to prosecute a single obscenity case dealing with Internet pornography. Will it more readily investigate obscenity on portable wireless devices? Not likely.

The pornification of new technology is nothing new, but children’s access to it has never been easier. So long as the government remains inert and the wireless industry remains devoted to profits, the only real help for kids rests with their parents.

Will moms and dads buy these news toys for their kids? Pornographers certainly hope so.

Daniel Weiss is senior analyst for media and sexuality for Focus on the Family.

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