… for Parents

Facts on children and pornography

  • Four out of five 16-year-old boys and girls regularly access porn on the Internet, according a 2012 report by the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry Into Online Child Protection in the United Kingdom.
  • 11 years old is the average age of first exposure to Internet pornography (Internet Filter Review)
  • The largest consumer group of Internet pornography is the 12-17-year-old age group (IFR)
  • Child pornography is one of the fastest growing businesses online. A recent report found 1,536 individual child abuse domains (Internet Watch Foundation, Annual Report, 2008)
  • 85% of men arrested for possession of child pornography had sexually exploited a child, according to a 2008 study by Michael Bourke, chief psychologist for the US Marshals Service
  • 76% of offenders convicted of Internet-related crimes against children admitted to contact sex crimes with children previously undetected by law enforcement, and had an average of 30.5 child sex victims each (Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2000).
  • The Internet Crimes Against Children task force in Pennsylvania reported that 51% of individuals arrested for pornography-related offenses were also actively molesting children or had molested in the past. In Dallas, the ICAC task force found that 32% of offenders arrested for child pornography offenses were also molesting children or had molested in the past.
  •  At least 80% of purchasers of child pornography are active abusers, and nearly 40% of the child pornographers investigated over the past several years, have sexually molested children in the past (United States Postal Inspection Service).
  • In a study of arrested child pornography possessors, 40% had sexually victimized children. Of those arrested between 2000 and 2001, 83% had images involving children between the ages 6 and 12; 39% had images of children between ages 3 and 5; and 19% had images of infants and toddlers under age 3 (NCMEC, 2005).
  •  The main sex exploitation offense referred to U.S. attorneys shifted from sex abuse (73%) in 1994 to child pornography (69%) in 2006, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Child pornography matters accounted for 82% of the growth in sex exploitation matters referred from 1994 to 2006.
  • Of all known child abuse domains, 58% are housed in the United States (Internet Watch Foundation, Annual Report, 2008)
  •  The fastest growing demand in commercial websites for child abuse is for images depicting the worst type of abuse, including penetrative sexual activity involving children and adults and sadism or penetration by an animal (Internet Watch Foundation, Annual Report, 2008)
  • More than 20,000 images of child pornography posted online every week (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 2003)
  • Approximately 20% of all Internet pornography involves children (NCMEC)
  • 79% of youths’ unwanted exposure to pornography occurs in the home (PDF: Online Victimization of Youth)
  • Of students aged 13 and 14 from schools across Alberta, Canada, 90% of males and 70% of females reported accessing sexually explicit media content at least once. The study revealed that boys do the majority of deliberate viewing. Overall, boys aged 13 and 14 living in rural areas are the most likely of their age group to access pornography. (Thompson, Sonya. University of Alberta, March 5, 2007) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070223142813.htm
  • 42% of Internet users aged 10 to 17 surveyed said they had seen online pornography in a recent 12-month span. Of those, 66% said they did not want to view the images and had not sought them out. 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% had done so. Overall, 34% had unwanted exposure to online pornography, up from 25% in a similar survey conducted in 1999 and 2000. (Wolak, Janis, et al. “Unwanted and Wanted Exposure to Online Pornography in a National Sample of Youth Internet Users.” Pediatrics 119 (2007); 247-257.)
  • More than three-quarters of unwanted exposures (79%) happen at home. 9% happen at school, 5% happen at friends’ homes, and 5% happen in other places, including libraries (Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later, 2006) [LINK to PDF]
  • Increasing number of kids are growing up addicted to Porn, UK panel (Medical Daily, UK, April 19, 2012) Four out of five 16-year-old boys and girls regularly access porn on the Internet, according to the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry Into Online Child Protection in 2012 a report, which also revealed that more than a quarter of young patients at a leading private clinic are being treated for addiction to online pornography. http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/9603/20120419/internet-porn-pornography-children-uk.htm#jd8IoaCvEueGdiUs.99

Signs that your child may be at risk online

  • Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night
  • You find pornography on your child’s computer
  • Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know
  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you enter the room
  • Your child withdraws from the family
  • Your child is using an online account that belongs to someone else
  • Your child spends more time online to the exclusion of other friends and previously preferred activities
  • Your child surfs the Internet with the door closed; when you approach you hear a flurry of mouse-clicks as your child quickly deletes information or changes web pages
    From the FBI Parent Guide to Internet Safety

A resource for parents who are worried their child may be addicted is the Youth Pornography Addiction Center

Q&A on child pornography and how to protect children

From “What is child pornography and how can I protect my children?”

By Jenifer McKim, Boston Globe, July 29, 2012

What constitutes child pornography?
It’s defined under federal law as any sexual explicit visual depiction of a minor, including a photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image.

Is simply looking at child pornography against the law?
In most cases, yes. It’s a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography. Penalties range from probation to 30 years in prison, with the possibility of added time for sending images electronically or depicting prepubescent children. All 50 states and the District of Columbia also have laws against child pornography.

Where is child pornography mostly found?
Largely, it involves digital pictures and videos that are viewed and exchanged through online chatrooms, instant messaging, websites, and peer-to-peer networks, often using technology that makes the viewers and senders anonymous.

Who produces such pictures and videos?
More than half of child victims are abused by someone who has legitimate access to them — including parents, relatives, family friends, baby-sitters, and coaches. Studies have shown that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood.

How do I protect my child from becoming a victim?
It’s important to realize that people close to your children can be a greater threat than strangers. Follow your instincts — if someone who has access to your children makes you uncomfortable, end that relationship. Also, tell your children to never allow anyone to touch them in a way that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused.

What are some signs of abuse?
Children may not want to talk about an incident, or won’t be able to articulate what happened, so it’s not as simple as asking them if anything is wrong. Monitor their body language and behavior. For instance, if your child doesn’t want to visit a particular adult, there may be a serious reason for the resistance. Others signs include extreme mood swings, withdrawal, fearfulness, excessive crying, bed-wetting, nightmares, and acting out sexual activity. Physical indicators can include genital or anal pain, itching, and rawness.
Michelle Collins, with the Virginia-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, says children who know their images have been disseminated online can suffer from extreme paranoia. “It is really important they receive professional help,” she says.

More information: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at www.missingkids.com , Stop it Now! at www.stopitnow.org, or US Immigration and Customs Enforcement at www.ice.gov/protectkids. Sources: US attorney’s office in Boston, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and Stop it Now!

What parents can do
Talk to your children about healthy sexuality
Don’t allow the pornography industry to be their main sex educator and don’t be afraid to set limits. Children can’t afford to have adults be sexually neglectful – they need adults to help them navigate through this
Keep all TVs and computers in a central location in the house – the family room or kitchen – to reduce the ability to access pornography in the house
Give your children and teens as much caring and respectful touch as you can. Children need caring touch so they learn that not all touch is sexual abuse and are not so deprived of touch that they only know how to get it through violence or through risky sexual behaviors.

Getting help
Talking to your child about assault

Call the National Child Abuse Hotline
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Serving the United States, its territories, and Canada, the Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in 170 languages. The Hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential.

CyberTipline National Child Pornography Tipline
The CyberTipline is a program run by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to take reports from individuals on the sexual exploitation of children online. Information provided to them is forwarded to law enforcement for investigation and review, and, when appropriate, to the Internet Service Provider.


Parent Further: Technology and Media for informed and effective parenting in the ever-changing media environment. Sections e.g. about online safety, high-risk behaviors, social networking and many more.

Child Sexual Abuse Ups Risk of Heart Attacks in Men (September 10, 2012)

“Exposure to Sexually Explicit Web Sites and Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors,” from the Journal of Adolescent Health

How pornography harms kids
By Donna Rice Hughes

“Led by an Innocent into a Web of Evil” on the globe child pornography trade  (Year-long investigative Boston Globe story)

National Juvenile Online Victimization Survey Publications (Crimes Against Children Research Center at University of New Hampshire)

Pandora’s Project: Numerous articles and advice on preventing and surviving sexual violence and abuse

“Porn Use and Child Abuse”
American Psychological Association (2009)

Child-Pornography Possessors Arrested in Internet-Related Crimes: Findings From the National Juvenile Online Victimization Study (2005); by Finkelhor, et al.