Online Porn

How Do We Keep It From Our Kids?

In the age of the Internet, it is laughingly easy for kids to view pornography online. A mere 3 percent of the more than 450 million individual porn Web sites ask for proof of age, according to a recent report by the Washington-based Third Way, a progressive research and policy group. Some sites simply ask visitors to certify that they are of legal age by clicking on “enter.” The majority of porn sites don’t bother to carry any warning of adult content at all, and nearly three-quarters display free teasers of pornographic images on their homepages even before kids are asked whether they are of legal age. Not surprisingly, many children accidentally come across a porn site while doing homework or surfing the Web.

As the report also notes, some online purveyors of porn aren’t waiting for kids to stumble through their portals. They’re targeting them. They may use keywords like Santa Claus or Teletubbies in their Web sites so that search engines will send anyone who uses that keyword to their site. Or they may buy domain names that contain a common typo that is close to the names of real sites. According to the report, www. whitehouse.com was, until recently, a pornographic Web site.

The susceptibility of kids to online porn is troubling to most Americans. (This is contrary to some claims that only a handful of religious right and antismut conservatives oppose minors’ easy access to porn on the...

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About the Author

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of The Divorce Culture (Knopf), directs the Center for Thrift and Generosity at the Institute for American Values.