Child Pornography on the Internet

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JoLynn Plato, Blessed Sacrament School, Springfield, IL

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Introduction

According to the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, "child pornography consists of photographs, videotapes, magazines, books, and films that depict children in sex acts, all of which are illegal.  These laws also include some child nudity, simulated sex involving children and material that is computer-doctored to look like child porn... The very existence of child porn is considered 'contraband,' or illegal because the very act of photographing a child in any sexual context is abusive."  The Internet has become an increasingly vast area where those involved in child pornography have found their niche.  Although law enforcement has begun to police the domain of the Internet, it still relies largely on a "cyberhood watch" to nab lawbreakers.  

In the area of technology misuse, the Internet is becoming an easy place where children can access adult pornography.  "The Internet Online Summit held in 1997 in Washington, D.C., revealed that 70 percent of children viewing pornography on the Internet are doing so in public schools and libraries."  (National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families)  Educators need to know the harm of pornography, the many-faceted sides of the issue, how to safeguard their rooms from becoming  sources of pornography, and what to do to help stop child pornography on the Internet.

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Major Issues Surrounding Adult and Child Pornography on the Internet

The "rights" of the pornographer have been recently highly publicized.   In the film The People Vs. Larry Flynt the pornography industry is on trial for producing indecent material.   Larry Flynt, creator of Hustler magazine as well as a leading devil's advocate during the 1998-99 impeachment trial in Congress, fought a battle for the protection of freedom of speech, even for things which citizens may find morally reprehensible.  The case, which Flynt finally won in the US Supreme Court, is one which surely distorts the original intent of the First Amendment.  Giving publishers of "adult" pornography carte blanche to publish whatever "satire" they choose is one thing that makes the line between "adult" pornography and child pornography slightly blurred.  One might also ask if this really should be a "view as I say, not as I view" issue.  If it is believed that pornography is inappropriate for children to view and in which to be viewed, why is pornography appropriate to view or be part of at all?

Pornography itself has been known to be both destructive and addictive.  Educators would not intentionally expose children to things which could be harmful in the future.  Consider this information:

(quoted from the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families)

(quoted from Child Pornography - Part I: Understanding the Problem)

Pornography is a neglected problem in society which devalues women in particular, making them objects of lust rather than human beings.  The same devaluation occurs when children are involved.  Educators not only must teach against such disrespect, but also must work to protect children from gaining access to Internet pornography as the Internet becomes more commonplace in schools.

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Ways to Combat Child Pornography on the Internet

Child pornography can be placed in the same category with other destructive habits and traps.  Children who fall into the trap of becoming objects of pornography tend to have a need for love from an adult.  This need can come from neglect of parents or problems at home or school.  Teachers can play a strong role in such situations.   If children feel there is an adult who cares and who is available to listen, feelings of self-worth grow stronger. 

Avoidance of pornographic magazines and Internet sites is crucial from the earliest age.  Educators with Internet access in their rooms and buildings must make it a priority to supervise children on the Internet.

Some schools have employed the use of filtering programs.  The use of filtering has stirred much debate in the education community.  Those who are pro-filtering believe that the filters do a good job in disallowing children into inappropriate sites.   Those who are anti-filtering feel that the filtering software keeps children out of sites that hold appropriate information, but may contain "inappropriate" words.   There is question as far as whose "moral compass" is used in filtering software.  They feel teachers should be able to teach children what to avoid without having filtering lock children out of sites. 

This educator believes that freedom of the web would work well in secondary education, but it is too big of a risk to run into sites, especially pornographic sites, in elementary education.   A single moment on one of these sites is all it takes to increase interest or start desensitization to such images.  A combination of teaching and filtering is the recommendation at the elementary level. 

One can also never underestimate the mere presence of the educator.  Having a teacher nearby and actively interested in what the students are pursuing on the Internet can effectively deter inappropriate access.  Having computers situated in rooms where the screen content can be viewed by the teacher at all times is also a good classroom deterrent.

Many agencies exist which allow people to be part of the "cyberhood watch" on the Internet.  The following sites allow reporting of child pornography on the Internet.  Educators are legally bound to report child abuse of any form.   Educators have an important responsibility to report Internet child pornography, as it is included in the area of child abuse.  Some reporting agencies include:

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber Tipline

PedoWatch

The Child Protection Society

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Annotated Web Sites

Abuse/Incest Report

http://incestabuse.miningco.com/library/weekly/aa102097.htm?pid=2791&cob=home

This report on child pornography by Nancy Burnett is broken in three parts: understanding the problem, empowering the parents, and reporting child pornography on the Internet.  Very useful information and multiple links to assist parents in combating the dangers child pornography on the Internet.

Fighting Child Pornography on the Internet

http://childhouse.uio.no/workshops/Open/Fighting_Child_Porno/index.html

This site solicits opinions on how child pornography can be combated on the Internet.   The stress is avoidance of over-censorship of the Internet while advocating respect for children.

National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families

http://www.nationalcoalition.org/

This site claims as its mission to protect "children and families from the harms of pornography."  Links include research on the effects of pornography, tips for families trying to combat the pitfalls of the Internet, reference to laws which protect pornographers, news segments on efforts to combat pornography, and ways families can make a difference.

The Police Notebook:  Kid Safety on the Internet

http://www.ou.edu/oupd/kidsafe/start.htm

The University of Oklahoma Department of Public Safety maintains this site to educate parents and children of the dangers of the Internet.  This site delves into many different computer abuse/misuse issues, including child pornography.

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Back to Educator's Guide to Computer Crime and Technology Misuse

Last edited 05/03/99