What is Pornography?

The term “pornography” lacks a well-defined meaning. There may be broad agreement that some materials are or are not pornographic, but for other materials, individual judgments about what is pornography will vary. In recognition of this essential point, the term “inappropriate sexually explicit material” will be used to underscore the subjective nature of the term.

How prevalent is pornography on the internet?

  • Online pornography grabs our attention largely because of the aggressive marketing techniques that these adult sites employ
  • Pornographic sites actually make up a very small portion of Internet content (according to the U.S.-based Online Computer Library Center, in 2002, sexually explicit websites represented only 3 per cent of all public sites). On the other hand, over half of Canadian kids say they’ve ended up on an adult site accidentally by simply doing an online search for something using a search engine; typing in the wrong Web site address; clicking on a link in an e-mail, instant message or chat room posting; or using file-sharing software that allows easy access to pornographic images and videos

What are some of the strategies that the pornography industry uses to get ‘hits’ to their sites?

With more than a half a million adult sites on the Internet, the online pornography industry is highly competitive. Adult marketers are continually developing new strategies to drive traffic to their sites. Some of their tactics include:

  • ‘Click-throughs’: Every time someone clicks through an adult site to another one, the site’s advertising revenues go up. To increase the number of click-throughs, some sites use pop-up windows. Known as ‘mouse napping,’ this technique traps users in an endless loop of porn
  • Home page hi-jacking’: This involves planting a Java script command on computers to change the user’s default home page to a porn site. Changing the home page back to its original setting appears to solve the problem until the computer is rebooted then the offensive site re-appears as the home page
  • ‘Stealth’ sites: These are porn sites that steer users their way through a variety of techniques, including buying up expired domain names, exploiting common misspellings, or using well-known names of companies or artists
  • Using hidden key words that are picked up by search engines: Porn operators bury key words, including brand names of popular toys in the code of their Web sites to attract children

Why aren’t authorities controlling the access to pornographic sites?

  • Most Internet pornography, while offensive and distasteful to many users, is not illegal
  • As well, countries have different cultural standards and legislation regarding sexual material, and content that is banned in one jurisdiction may be easily accessible on servers in another jurisdiction

What effects do pornographic images have on children?

  • While there is little research on whether viewing pornography harms children, several recent studies have shown that when young children are accidentally exposed to online pornography they find it disturbing
  • Teens, particularly adolescent males, have always been driven by natural curiosity to seek out pornography. This hasn’t changed. What’s different is the easy access the Internet gives kids to deviant or violent sexual content, which may have an influence on their developing attitudes towards sexuality and relationships

What can parents do about the internet, children and pornography?

Assume that children and teens are being exposed to sexual images in various media (magazines, T.V., video games, etc.) and establish an open and honest dialogue with them so they will come to you with their questions.

  • If they stumble across pornography, remain calm. In many cases these sites pop up accidentally and are difficult to leave, which can be very upsetting for kids. Don’t freak out or act accusingly – you want your children to feel comfortable turning to you for help and advice when these incidents happen
  • Make sure your children are going to sites that you’ve chosen. There are thousands of wonderful kids’ sites, but it takes a bit of work to locate them. Ask other parents, teachers or librarians for suggestions.