Division of Criminal Justice Services

Missing Persons Clearinghouse
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Pornography - Dangers

"It is like a car crash.
You want to look away but can't."
(Age 14)

Access to Adult Pornography

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

Unintentional Access

Inadvertent access can occur in several ways:

Innocent, imprecise, misdirected searches
Pornographic webwebsite operators use popular terms to increase traffic to their websites. When children search terms for legitimate reasons, pornographic websites appear along with the websites which children are seeking.

Stealth websites and misleading URLs
Pornographers purchase domain names, such as the .com equivalents of popular .gov or .org webwebsites, knowing that Internet users, including children, are likely to end up on their pornographic website instead of the intended destination.

Innocent word searches
Keyword searches related to surprisingly ordinary words can lead a child (or adult) to pornographic websites, images and video. 

Misuse of brand names
To direct people to their websites through keyword searches, pornographic websites misuse popular, child-oriented, brand names in search engine magnets, metatags and links.

Unsolicited e-mail
Everyone receives unsolicited commercial e-mail, often referred to as “spam.” Spammers harvest e-mail addresses from thousand of sources and use this information for advertising and solicitations. In the case of pornographic spam, their goal is to attract people to their websites, provide samples of what they offer, hoping that this will increase paid membership. The issue with children, of course, is that they may open an e-mail message and find a direct link to a pornographic website. Also, many of these e-mails contain deceptive subject lines, making it impossible to determine the true contents until the mail is opened, and by that time the damage is done.

Instant Messages
Children are also vulnerable to receiving pornographic content through private, real-time communication with sexual predators. In addition, when some people think that their identities are anonymous and they have a captive audience, they take the opportunity to direct inappropriate messages to others, including children.

The need to constantly say “no”
If a child, out of curiosity or carelessness clicks on the wrong link, he or she may be inadvertently exposed to explicit material.
Regardless of how a child may end up inadvertently viewing pornographic material, they should be told to navigate away from the website immediately and discuss the incident with a parent. In addition to the exposure to inappropriate material, sometimes child exploiters and pedophiles use these types of website to lure children

Intentional Access

Children are naturally curious and even the most diligent parental guidance and supervision cannot completely deter a child who is determined to view pornography on the Internet. Parents can address this through conversations with their child and use of software and applications that restrict websites that can be viwebsited. But it is important for parents to keep in mind that children have access to computers and the Internet not only at home, but in many other places (i.e., school, libraries, the home of a friend, a cell phone or a BlackBerry.) Also, though a child may not have interest in directly accessing pornography, it is likely that he or she will come into contact with a child who does.

(Adapted from Protectkids.com – “How Children Access Pornography on the Internet” – 2001)

Child Pornography

(Reference: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

Child pornography is not protected under any free-speech guarantees. It has been illegal in the United States for more than a quarter of a century.

pic of man on keyboardUnder federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), child pornography is defined as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where the:  

  • production of the visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.  

Federal law (18 U.S.C. §1466A) also criminalizes knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that depicts:

  • a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
  • an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or oppowebsite sex and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Sexually explicit conduct is defined under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) as actual or simulated sexual intercourse (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or oppowebsite sex), bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.

Note: For purposes of enforcing the federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), “minor” is defined as a person under the age of 18.

It is a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography (18 U.S.C. §2252).  In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws criminalizing the possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography.  As a result, a person who violates these laws may face federal and/or state charges. 

Creation and distribution of child pornography is an international issue. It exists in many formats including print media, videotape, film, CD and DVD.  Furthermore, it is transmitted on various Internet platforms including newsgroups, Internet Relay Chat (chatrooms), Instant Message, File Transfer Protocol, e-mail, webwebsites, and peer-to-peer technology.

Research about the motivations of people who possess child pornography suggests that child pornography possessors include people from virtually all ages and walks of life. Studies also suggest that as many as forty percent (40%) of those arrested were “dual offenders,” who sexually victimized children and possessed child pornography, with both crimes discovered in the same investigation. An additional 15% were dual offenders who attempted to sexually victimize children by soliciting undercover investigators who posed online as minors.

Cyber TiplineIt is important to realize that these images are evidence of a crime – they are a permanent record of the abuse of a child. The lives of the children featured in these illegal images and videos are forever altered. Once these images are on the Internet, they are irretrievable and can continue to circulate forever. The child is victimized as the images are viewed again and again.

If in contact with images that you believe to be child pornography, you should contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipline