Child Pornography on the Internet

Addendum Written by Linda Griffin, West Middle School, Rockford, Illinois
by JoLynn Plato, Blessed Sacrament School, Springfield, Illinois


In the last few years, the Internet and its usage have grown dramatically.  This has afforded us access to a tremendous quantity of resources previously unheard of.  It also allows us the ability to easily communicate with people from all over the world.  This can offer wonderful opportunities to our young people, but it also opens a whole new area of dangers to them as well.  One of these dangers lies in the area of child pornography.  Computer telecommunications have become one of the most prevalent ways for those interested in this particular crime to communicate with each other and dramatically increased their ability to access the very population they wish to victimize.

Although the United States and the rest of the international community have enacted laws outlawing child pornography and sought to work together to bring these criminals to justice, the very existence of the Internet has brought a whole new set of problems to our lawmakers and enforcers.  It also has created a new set of problems for parents and educators. 

It is imperative that educators familiarize themselves with the issues associated with pornography, understand the possible implications for their students, steps to take to help protect their students from exposure, and know what steps they can take toward prevention.


First of all, it’s important to face that fact that the only way child pornography can be produced is to molest a child.  Now although this used to always be true, more and more often, there is also the issue of computer-generated or “morphed” photos.  This issue came before the Supreme Court in spring of 2002 and will be discussed in the legal section of this paper.  Secondly, the next issue that must dealt with when trying to educate oneself about child pornography is how it is used and is ties to pedophilia.  It is, in a way, self-propagating.   Pornographers, who are often pedophiles, show their work to children in order to lower their inhibitions and to demonstrate what they want them to do.  It can also be used to blackmail the child into continuing the behaviors to pornographers want to see.

In order to understand the enormity of the problem, one first must look at some recent statistics:  

  • Online pornography is the first consistently successful e-commerce product. (C-Net; 4/28/99)  

  • There are in excess of 40,000 individual URLs containing child pornography, pedophilia and pro-pedophilia content. (Safeguarding Our Children - United Mothers & CyberAngels “Our Kids In Danger List”, 2000)

  • N2H2 reported 403 child porn sites, or 67 per month, for the six months of April to September 2000. Child porn sites rose dramatically for the six months of February to July 2001 to 1,391 or 231 per month. That's an increase of 345% at the rate of about 8 per day. (N2H2 Filtering Service Press Release, 8/8/01)  

  • 345% increase in child pornography sites between 2/2001-7/2001. (N2H2 press release, 8/01)  

  • The U.S. Customs Service estimates that there are more than 100,000 Web sites offering child pornography - which is illegal worldwide. Revenue estimates for the industry range from about $200 million to more than $1 billion per year. These unlawful sexual images can be purchased as easily as shopping at "Subscribers" typically use credit cards to pay a monthly fee of between $30 and $50 to download photos and videos, or a one-time fee of a few dollars for single images. (Red Herring Magazine, 1/18/02)  

  • Children are reported missing at the rate of 750,000 per year, 62,500 per month, 14,423 per week, 2,054 per day, and 85 per hour or 3 children every 2 minutes. (NCMRC Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation's Youth, April 3, 2000)  

  • “Dangerous Access, 2000 Edition” by librarian David Burt. 452 public libraries reported 2,062 incidents of Internet pornography accessed at libraries :

  • 41 cases of child porn being accessed

  • 472 incidents of children accessing pornography

  • 962 incidents of adult's accessing porn

  • 106 incidents of adults exposing children to porn

  •  5 attempts to molest children in libraries

  • 44 percent of children polled have visited x-rated sites or sites with sexual content. Moreover, 43 percent of children said they do not have rules about Internet use in their homes. (Time/CNN Poll, 2000)  

Given these current statistics, it is impossible not to see the enormity of this growing problem.  As with all societal problems, this one too, seeps into the classroom.  It can come in the form of inadvertently accessed sites while researching.  It can come in the form of deliberately sought sites by a mischievous, misguided youngster.  It can come in the form of a child that has disappeared.  It can come in the form of a troubled child who suffers from unknown insecurities.  As educators, we must be aware of these societal issues that can affect our students and learn ways to deal with them.

Minimizing Potential

As with all problems, the first thing that we, as educators, must have is awareness of the problem.  We need to know it exists and what causes children to fall into its grasp.  For some of these children, it is simply a strong desire for approval and love.  Children with poor self-images are easy prey.  As educators, we can play a positive role in the lives of needy children and help them view themselves in a different light. 

The most obvious way educators can help protect children is to monitor how they are using the Internet at school.  The greater majority of schools are now using filtering software, which often gives teachers and parents alike a false sense of security.  Filters can block needed and appropriate material while allowing other inappropriate and pornography sites through.  It is important to note that servers such as Yahoo have been known to have pornographic sites, unregulated on their servers, which are often unblocked by filters.  This is why it is so important for teachers to monitor the sites their students are accessing.  Also, if a student seeks to be online too often, it would be wise of the educator to be sure what sites the child is visiting. 

Teachers need to educate themselves so that they may teach students about the Internet, and about the fact that there are things on the Internet just like there are in real life that are not good for them. We talk about stranger safety to young children and that needs to be expanded to the Internet.  They feel a misguided sense of anonymity on the Internet that truly isn’t there.  They are not at all difficult for predators to track and this needs to shown to them.  The majority of inappropriate sites accessed are accessed at home before parents come home, in the privacy of their own rooms, and at the public libraries.  This is why it is so important that safety issues covered at schools are expanded to cover the Internet.

Educators must also be aware of porn-napping. Porn-napping is a somewhat new form of watching for domain names that may interest children and then waiting for the desirable name registration to expire.  They then purchase it, turn the page into a portal for pornography, and then offer the domain for sale, hoping that the original owner or someone else will purchase it to release the once reputable site from its pornographic grip.  It’s important to know that what appears to be in the name does not always indicate what is on the site.

As with any issue of child abuse or child exploitation, educators are mandated court reporters, and this applies to child pornography sites and any unknown people contacting children through school connections.

Although the main sites for reporting were listed in the first edition of this report, they need to be repeated and be as available to educators as possible.  Also keep in mind that you can contact the FBI at your local field office, which can be found at:

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children - Please include as much information as possible about the persons and sites involved if known, to include URL addresses, their E-mail addresses, FTP site, and any other helpful information.

or you can call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678)

International Child Pornography Investigation and Coordination Center  - For complaints regarding websites, individuals, servers, or chat rooms trafficking in suspected Child Pornography please forward all correspondence to the International Child Pornography Investigation and Coordination Center at:

Legal Implications

Many laws have been passed over the years as the Internet became a relevant part of out society.  To understand legal implications, it is important to have an overview of the laws over time that affect the issues of child pornography.  The first law mentioning computers was passed in 1977.

1977 - The Sexual Exploitation of Children Act (18 U.S.C. 2251-2253) was enacted. The law prohibits the use of a minor in the making of pornography, the transport of a child across state lines, the taking of a pornographic picture of a minor, and the production and circulation of materials advertising child pornography. It also prohibits the transfer, sale, purchase, and receipt of minors when the purpose of such transfer, sale, purchase, or receipt is to use the child or youth in the production of child pornography. The transportation, importation, shipment, and receipt of child pornography by any interstate means, including by mail or computer, is also prohibited

1984 - The Child Protection Act of 1984 (18 U.S.C. 2251-2255) defines anyone younger than the age of 18 as a child. Therefore, a sexually explicit photograph of anyone 17 years of age or younger is child pornography. 

1986 - Child Sexual Abuse and Pornography Act (18 U.S.C. 2251-2256) On November 7, 1986, the U.S. Congress enacted the Child Sexual Abuse and Pornography Act that banned the production and use of advertisements for child pornography and included a provision for civil remedies of personal injuries suffered by a minor who is a victim. It also raised the minimum sentences for repeat offenders from imprisonment of not less than two years to imprisonment of not less than five years. 

1988 - Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act (18 U.S.C. 2251-2256) On November 18, 1988, the U.S. Congress enacted the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act that made it unlawful to use a computer to transmit advertisements for or visual depictions of child pornography and it prohibited the buying, selling, or otherwise obtaining temporary custody or control of children for the purpose of producing child pornography. 

1990Certain Activities Relating to Material Involving the Sexual Exploitation of Minors (18 U.S.C. 2252 ) On November 29, 1990, the U.S. Congress enacted a law it a federal crime to possess three or more depictions of child pornography that were mailed or shipped in interstate or foreign commerce or that were produced using materials that were mailed or shipped by any means, including by computer. 

1996 - Telecommunications Act (18 U.S.C. 2422) With the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, it is a federal crime for anyone using the mail, interstate or foreign commerce, to persuade, induce, or entice any individual younger than the age of 18 to engage in any sexual act for which the person may be criminally prosecuted.  

1996 - The Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 amends the definition of child pornography to include that which actually depicts the sexual conduct of real minor children and that which appears to be a depiction of a minor engaging in sexual conduct. Computer, photographic, and photocopy technology is amazingly competent at creating and altering images that have been “morphed” to look like children even though those photographed may have actually been adults. People who alter pornographic images to look like children can now be prosecuted under the law.  

(The above information was from Laws and Legislation found at:  

1998 – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 - The statute and rule apply to commercial Web sites and online services directed to, or that knowingly collect information from, children under 13. To inform parents of their information practices, these sites will be required to provide notice on the site and to parents about their policies with respect to the collection, use and disclosure of children's personal information. With certain statutory exceptions, sites will also have to obtain "verifiable parental consent" before collecting, using or disclosing personal information from children. The rule became effective on April 21, 2000, but has been challenged by the ACLU as being too broad.

( From New Rule Will Protect Privacy of Children Online -  )

2000 -  Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000  - CIPA requires that public schools and libraries receiving federal e-rate funds must use of portion of those funds to filter their Internet access.  They must filter out obscenity on terminals used by adults and both obscenity and materials  considered to be harmful to minors on terminals used by minors. A suit has been filed by the American Library Association In Pennsylvania charging that this law violates their patrons First Amendment rights.

2002 Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 – April 16, 2002 - The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, has overthrown this law that banned virtual “morphed” images of child pornography on the grounds that it was “unconstitutionally vague and far-reaching” and infringed on established protections of material with artistic value that does not violate community standards. It violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.  This decision is considered to be major setback for the Justice Department and Congress in their legislative efforts to fight child pornography.

 "Pictures of what appear to be a 17-year-old engaging in sexually explicit activity do not in every case contravene community standards," the court said.  "The (Act) also prohibits speech having serious redeeming value, proscribing the visual depiction of an idea -- that of teenagers engaging in sexual activity -- that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature for centuries

The opinion referred to several occurrences in which teenage sex was portrayed, such as William Shakespeare's play "Romeo & Juliet," and the movies "Traffic" and "American Beauty."

In a separate dissent, Rehnquist, who was backed by Scalia and O’Connor, clearly disagreed with the majority, saying "the computer-generated images are virtually indistinguishable from real children."

The ruling was in the case named Ashcroft v. The Free Speech Coalition. The Free Speech Coalition  consists of predominantly publishers of pornographic materials.

Ashcroft was clearly disappointed by the court's decision and said, "This morning the United States Supreme Court made our ability to prosecute those who produce and possess child pornography immeasurably more difficult." He proclaimed that the Justice Department would use every resource to prosecute child pornography cases and said child pornographers "will find little refuge in today's decision."

He said he will be working with Congress to pass new laws that would endure the court's inspection.  Ashcroft stated, "I believe today's opinion and the Constitution leave open legislative avenues to protect our children from harm and we will seek to develop the means to do so with legislative endeavor." 

2002 – June 25 – The House voted 413 to 8 to pass a bill that restricts computer generated sex images of minors.  A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate and has enthusiastic bi-partisan support.  This bill will include relatively minor changes to CPPA.  Ashcroft said that the new bill “will strengthen the ability of law enforcement  to protect children from abuse and exploitation.”  those who crafted the new law say they were careful in order to pass the Court’s scrutiny.  But comments from those who specialize in First Amendment Law have not been positive, so it remains to be seen if this new proposal will hold.  

2002 – Children’s Online Protection Act of 1998 -  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) led the challenge of COPA.  In May, the Justices voted 8-1 to send the case back for reconsideration by the lower court that struck down the law. The high court did not lift an injunction preventing enforcement of the law, meaning that the government still cannot block content it deems harm ful to minors.  

2002 - Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000 - June 18, 2002 -The three-judge panel in Pennsylvania held that "we are constrained to conclude that the library plaintiffs must prevail in their contention that CIPA requires them to violate the First Amendment rights of their patrons, and accordingly is facially invalid"; the three-judge panel sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled Sections 1712(a)(2) and 1721(b) of the Children's Internet Protection Act to be facially invalid under the First Amendment and permanently enjoined the government from enforcing those provisions.  June 20, 2002 - The Justice Department, acting on behalf of the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Sciences, formally notified the Supreme Court on June 20 that it would appeal this ruling. (From  ALA's CIPA Website  )

It seems the issue with these challenges is determining what is acceptable to communities, and the Supreme Court feels that what is acceptable in one community may not be acceptable to another.  In the meantime, children are still at great risk for exposure to child pornography, which appears to have no viable usage other than to those who would choose to use it to hurt children while hiding behind the First Amendment.  To educators, this means that we will have to continue to be vigilant in our protection of our students and that we need to continue to educate them about the dangers that exist in the Internet.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What advice should I offer a parent who is concerned about the time their child spends on the Internet?

Most of the inappropriate material is viewed at home before parents return home from work and at the public library.  Talk to your child about how to handle these situations and be sure to monitor the sites they go to on the Internet.  If you aren’t sure how to this, check  A CyberCop's Guide to Internet Child Safety at for instructions.  Let your child know that you will be monitoring them and then follow through.  If you are worried about the time they spend on the Internet, place the computer in the family room or kitchen.

What can I do to help with the fight against child pornography?

We can all support stronger laws through contacting our representatives and senators.  We can also support groups that fight pornography, like Cyber Angels at    and  the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at  Educate yourself about the issues.

As an educator, what can I do besides monitoring students on the Internet and working to educate them about the dangers on the Internet?

Be aware of your students. Look around your classroom. You are looking for kids at risk.  Look for kids who have few friends, who don’t fit into any groups and they may have uncertain family situations.   These are the kids looking for approval who make easy targets.  Other indicators of vulnerability might be suddenly begun dressing or acting provocatively or one who appears overly eager for attention or approval.  If you see these risks factors in a child, don’t be afraid to talk to them.  See if you can get to know them better.  Never underestimate the power of one person caring about another.
Annotated Web Site Directory

Get Netwise - This is a site that can educate kids, parents and educators about safe ways to use the Internet and is produced by the Internet Safety Council as a public service. The host committee of the group is consists of AOL Time Warner, AT&T, Microsoft, BellSouth, WorldCom, And Verizon. There are sections for kids, for education on using the Internet, and for reporting problems.

A Cybercop’s Guide to Internet Child Safety – This is a rather sizable free downloadable book that has a myriad of information for those educators and parents who need information about how things work.  It covers everything from newsgroups and chat software to unsolicited emails.  It was written by a police detective who’s sister was kidnapped and killed when he was 15.  He later became a detective and has received training from many of the major computer companies.  Detective Kinkhart is currently assigned to the High Tech Computer Crime Unit and spends his time investigating Internet related crimes

ChatDanger – This is a good site to show kids how to be careful when conversing on the Internet.  The purpose of the site is “to raise awareness among children and parents about the potential dangers of unmoderated Internet chat rooms, and to seek to put pressur

Anti-Child Porn Organization (ACPO) -  an organization, comprised of volunteers from all around the world, whose mission is to stop the sexual exploitation of the world's children. For the past two years ACPO has been addressing the issues of Child Pornography production and distribution via the Internet, as well as the predatory use of the Internet for the sexual abuse of children.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation Parent Guide for Internet Safety This document explains such things as signs of  a child being at risk for Online predators, explains how to handle these situations as well a preventative measures to take.

02 August 2002

Return to Educator's Guide to Computer Crime and Technology Misuse
Developed 29 July 2002