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5 Children, Media, and Exposure to Sexually Explicit Material 5.1 CHILDREN AND HOW THEY USE MEDIA The term "minors" spans an enormous developmental range. Spe- cialists in child development distinguish between infancy, early child- hood, childhood, preadolescence, early adolescence, and late adolescence. Table 5.1 summarizes some important characteristics of different age ranges. As a general rule, young children do not have the cognitive skills needed to navigate the Internet independently. Knowledge of search strategies is limited if not nonexistent, and typing skills are undeveloped. These factors tend to limit young children's potential exposure to sexu- ally explicit material on the Internet until about age 10, the transition from childhood to the preadolescent years. The years between preadolescence and late adolescence can be tur- bulent times in which youth struggle to develop their own identities. They are eager to be heard, seen, and taken seriously but often lack the experience and maturity to make responsible choices consistently. They test boundaries in developing their emerging adult personalities, and they take risks that adults would deem unwise. They are often socially uncertain, and they value peer approval highly. And, in pre- and early adolescence, hormonal changes generally stimulate their interest in sexual matters. Because of the intensely personal nature of such matters (both sexual and social), the "at-a-distance" nature of Internet commu- nication and the anonymity with which one can seek out a great variety 115
116 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET TABLE 5.1 Some Important Dimensions of Child Development Age Characteristics Infancy (0-2) · Preverbal and early language skills emerging · Lacks framework for assimilating and understanding sexual concepts · Information needs can generally be met by primary care givers and others in child's immediate environment Early Childhood · Finds it difficult to distinguish between fantasy and reality; (3-5) is more easily frightened by "scary things" · Continues to lack cognitive framework for assimilating and understanding sexual concepts, though sexual behavior such as masturbation may occur · Information needs can generally be met by those in child's environment and easily accessible resources such as children's books · Begins to have empathy for others Childhood (6-9) · Increasing ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality · Typing and writing skills emerging, but poor at younger ages (e.g., misspellings common) · Decision-making skills on the Internet (as in many areas of life) not well developed . Some emerging information needs require reference books and other materials to support research Preadolescence · Much better ability to distinguish between fantasy and (10-12) reality · Better able to use inferential reasoning skills · Decision-making skills developing in more abstract way (A 1 (A J due to metamemory skills (knowing about knowing, knowing how to know, i.e., strategy) · Typing and spelling skills still problematic · Sexual development beginning for many or at least for their peers; sexuality becoming more interesting; likely a sensitive period for exposure to sexual content · Information needs expanding and increasingly require materials that are not in the immediate physical environment Early adolescence · Abstract cognitive skills in place that are the same ones that (13-15) adults have, though skill set not fully developed · Decision-making skills and reasoning skills better developed than in preadolescence, but often impulsive; faith in own decision-making skills (especially in the face of parental positions) may well exceed actual skill · Age of puberty, growing awareness of sexual development and highly curious about his or her own sexuality; some become sexually active with intercourse; most will have some kind of sexual experience (e.g., kissing) · Information needs are broader and relate to the world at large, and the availability of some external sources is important (continues)
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 117 TABLE 5.1 continued Age Characteristics Late adolescence (16-18) Highly aware personally of sexual issues and may well be sexually active (80 percent have intercourse by age 20; the mean age of first intercourse is approximately 17 I/: years today) · Decision-making skills and reasoning ability improved over early adolescence · Physically and cognitively mature · Legal rights approaching those of adults, though rights may vary by state · Historically, many were married and having children at this age Information needs extensive in scope and depth and commonly require access to a wide range of resources beyond the individuals in their immediate environment . of information on the Internet are highly appealing to very social but also sensitive individuals. Note also that adolescence is a cultural invention in earlier times, people aged 13 and 14 were regarded as small adults. Children and teenagers had jobs. Many older minors (minors by today's standards) were getting married, having sex, and raising their families. Put another way, these older minors had the rights and the responsibilities of adult- hood. Also, there is some debate in the scientific literature about how rebellious adolescents are. For example, even in later adolescence, youth often agree with their parents on very important decisions such as where to go to college. The storm-and-stress view of adolescents is tied to par- ticular theoretical views, namely Erikson's psychoanalytic theory, but not so much to social learning theory, which argues for more continuity in development. American youth from preadolescence to late adolescence are also in- tense consumers of various media. As do other individuals, youth use media including the Internet for a variety of purposes, for example, news, education, entertainment, information, stimulation, relief from boredom, and emotional arousal. Media use is heavy among adolescents, with television, music, teen magazines, and movies as well as the Internet and video games being important elements. Television use tends to peak at about age 12 and decreases during middle and late adolescence, and use of other media music, music vid- eos, magazines, and the Internet increases during this period. Further, there are some gender differences and differences of socioeconomic status
118 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET (SES). Adolescent girls read teen magazines and watch soap operas more than boys do, while boys play video games and watch television more than girls do. Lower SES tends to correlate with more watching of enter- tainment television, and African Americans watch more television than other Americans, even when SES is controlled for.2 Children and adoles- cents also prefer watching programs with characters from their own eth- mc group. American adolescents use various forms of media primarily because of their entertainment value. But media use also helps to socialize adoles- cents into various adult roles and relationships, contributes to the forma- tion of their individual identities as adolescents, provides assistance in coping with their problems and emotional mood states, and helps to as- similate them into various youth subcultures. For example, private, soli- tary use of both music and television by adolescents is important in pro- viding them an opportunity to deal with the stress and intense emotions of this stage of development. Teen girls use their bedrooms to read maga- zines, watch television, listen to music, do their homework, and talk on the phone. For such girls, the bedroom is a place where they use media to help them make sense of themselves and their lives. Preference for cer- tain kinds of music and films helps to connect youth from across the country and the world into a common youth subculture. In short, media are part of the process by which adolescents acquire, or resist acquiring, the behaviors and beliefs of the social world and the adult culture in which they live. Most children's media use including time on the computer and online does not involve parental supervision. Many children have ra- dios, CD players, a television, and even a computer in their rooms. As a result, many parents are not in a position to monitor their children's media activity, nor can they readily provide any feedback or support for children's online activities. The Kaiser Family Foundation's report Kids and Media at the New Mil- lennium: A Comprehensive National Analysis of Children's Media Use (1999) described the children's media landscape, identifying how much time 1A.C. Huston and J.C. Wright. 1997. "Mass Media and Children's Development." Pp. 999-1058 in Handbook of Child Psychology, 5th Ed., Vol. 4, W. Damon, I. Sigel, and K. Renniger, eds. Wiley, New York. 2G. Comstock, 1991, Television and the American Child, Academic Press, Orlando, Fla.; J. Condry, 1989, The Psychology of Television, Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N.J.; and Huston and Wright, 1997, "Mass Media and Children's Development." 3J.E. Brand and B.S. Greenberg. 1994. "Minorities and the Mass Media: 1970's to 1990's." Pp. 273-314 in Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research, J. Bryant and D. Zillmann, eds. Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N.J.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 119 young people spend with media and what types of media draw their attention. The average child spends about 5.5 hours daily using media, including television, radio, CDs, or the computer. Young people often use more than one type of media at the same time (e.g., listening to a CD while surfing the Internet) which means that children do a lot of parallel processing in their media use. Children aged 8 to 14 tend to spend more hours using media than do teens aged 14 to 18. This is likely because of the busier and more diverse schedules of older teens.4 Perhaps surprisingly, time using the computer in all venues averaged only 31 minutes per day for children aged 8 to 18, with only a portion of that time devoted to online and Internet activities. Television, by far, was still the most commonly used form of media, and this age group had the television on an average of 3.25 hours per day. In this study 62 percent of children had a computer at home. Of families living in affluent communi- ties in which the community income averaged above $40,000, 81 percent had computers compared to 49 percent of families in communities with an average income under $25,000. Schools seemed to mitigate some of these differences, often providing access for children who did not have a personal computer in their homes.5 Of the 31 minutes spent on the computer in recreation, children used the computer primarily for games but did spend some time in chat rooms, sending e-mail, and surfing Web sites. Of the group of children who reported using the computer the previous day, games occupied the ma- jority of their recreational time online. The 8- to 13-year-olds using a computer in the previous day logged the longest average recreation times on the computer (over 1 hour), spending 32 minutes playing games, 14 minutes looking at Web sites, 11 minutes in chat rooms, and 8 minutes sending e-mails.6 Note also that time spent online may increase in the future as the result of two factors: a greater dependence on Web-based information sources and more interaction with online electronic devices (e.g., Nintendo games) that are not online today. The amount of time children spend using computers and going online is likely to increase as computer use continues to penetrate homes and schools. For example, a 2002 survey by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that 89.5 percent of all children aged 5 to 17 use computers, and 58.5 percent of all those children use the 4Donald F. Roberts, Ulla G. Foehr, Victoria J. Rideout, and Mollyann srodie. 1999. Kids and Media at the New Millennium: A Comprehensive National Analysis of Children's Media Use. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif. 5Roberts et aL, 1999, Kids and Media at the New Millennium. 6Roberts et aL, 1999, Kids and Media at the New Millennium.
120 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET Internet.7 The report also found that Internet use is particularly high for teens and preteens (75.6 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds and 65.4 percent of 10- to 13-year-olds, up from 51.2 and 39.2 percent, respectively, in 1998~. Furthermore, computer usage (and possibly Internet usage as well) varies by age: in one national survey, 26 percent of 2- to 7-year-olds reported using a computer out of school the day before compared to 44 percent of 14- to 18-year-olds.8 According to a survey by Grunwald Associates, family decisions to purchase computers and to obtain Internet access were based on parental perceptions of their children's educational needs.9 While children and youth are most likely to use the Internet for schoolwork, an important (and large) percentage of their online time is spent for other purposes, including e-mail, chat, and entertainment.l° A report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that about half of regular Internet users of any age (an estimated 52 million) use the Internet for information on health issues such as diseases, clinical trials, treatment, and nutrition, as well as for assistance in making health-related decisions.l1 According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about two out of three young people (aged 15-24) have used the Internet to search for health information, and 25 percent say they get "a lot" of health information online.l2 These data suggest that the Internet is of great use to adolescents seeking health- related information (including information related to sexual health). 5.2 SEXUALITY IN CULTURE This report is concerned with the protection of children from inap- propriate sexually explicit material on the Internet. But children share a cultural space with adults, and so it is helpful to understand a contempo- 7National Telecommunications and Information Administration. 2002. A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet. U.S. Department of commerce, Washington, D.C. Available online at <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/html/ anationonline2.htm>. 8Roberts et aL, 1999, Kids and Media at the New Millennium. 9see <http: / /cyberatlas.internet.com/big-picture/demographics/article/o,~ssol- 390941, OO.html> for a summary of the Grunwald study. The full study is available online at <http: / /www.grunwald.com/survey/index.htm>. 1°Nationa1 Telecommunications and Information Administration, 2002, A Nation Online. 2000. The Online Health Care Revolution: How the Web Helps Americans Take Better Care of Themselves. Pew Internet and American Life Project, November. Available online at <http://www.pewinternet.org/reports/pdfs/PIP_Health_ Report.pdf>. 12victoria Rideout. 2001. Generation Rx.com: How Young People Use the Internetfor Health Information. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif. Available online at <http: / /www.kff.org/content/2001 /20011211a/GenerationRx.pdf>. 1lSusannah Fox and Lee Rainie.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 121 rary society in which sexual images and references are common. Media images of sexuality abound, and the children of today are exposed to a wide range of images through many media, including entertainment tele- vision (especially sitcom and dramatic programming in prime-time broad- casts, soap operas, music videos, and talk shows), magazines, advertis- ing, film and movies, and news.~3 · In prime-time broadcast television, references to heterosexual in- tercourse have increased and have become much more explicit in the last 20 years. The dominant messages of these references suggest that sexual behavior typically takes place between two adults who are not married to each other and that sexual intercourse does not have the consequences with which intercourse may be associated in real life (e.g., pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases). Talk about sex is more common than the depiction of sex, and sexual intercourse is often implied by context and partial nudity rather than being portrayed explicitly (that is, with full nudity) on the screen. Some programs on cable networks especially programs carried late at night often push the envelope further. · Movies (many of them it-rated, and usually available in theaters, on pay-TV channels, and in video rentals) contain more frequent and more explicit portrayals of sexual behavior than broadcast TV. As in TV, the most frequent sexual activity shown is unmarried sexual intercourse. Sex is often depicted in the context of profanity, alcohol and drug use, and nudity. And sex is often mixed with violence in an attempt to seek further commercial success. · Newsstands routinely carry adult magazines whose imagery ranges from that depicting simple frontal nudity to very graphic, sexually explicit acts. · Soap operas have a long history in broadcast entertainment. The sexual behavior portrayed usually involves unmarried sexual intercourse and extended and passionate kissing, with prostitution, rape, petting, and homosexuality occurring less often. Discussions and portrayals of safe sex and contraception are infrequent, though recent soap operas appear to refer increasingly to "taking sexual precautions" and have focused more on pregnancy, both wanted and unwanted, than in previous years. · Music videos are increasingly common, and many of the visual elements are implicitly or explicitly sexual. These videos often combine sexuality with violence or aggression, and with objectification and sex- ~3Material in the list below has been adapted from Aletha c. Huston, Ellen Wartella, and Edward Donnerstein, 1998, Measuring the Effects of Sexual Content in the Media: A Report to the Kaiser Family Foundation, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif. Available online at <http://www.kff.org/content/archive/1389/>.
22 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET role stereotyping. Visual presentations of sexual activity are common, and a majority of music videos containing violence also contain sexual imagery. Rap music is particularly explicit about both sex and violence; MTV frequently shows combinations of aggression, sex-role stereotypes, and sexual imagery; country music videos also use sexual images, but common themes include breakups and divorce, dating, and romantic love. · Informational magazines are an important source of information about sex, birth control, and sexually transmitted diseases for many teens, especially teen girls. A significant fraction of the sexual content in teen magazines is devoted to sexual health, with other topics including a focus on decision making about becoming sexually active. Magazines incorpo- rate a substantial amount of information about sexual issues into their ar- ticles and serve as an important source of information for young readers. Although sexual images and behavior are common in the media de- scribed above, most of those media generally do not portray sexually explicit material involving full frontal nudity. Rather, they are important elements of a culture at large that seems to accept such portrayals of sexuality. On the other hand, media portrayals of easy and loose sexuality are not generally reflected in the actual sexual behavior of Americans, and in fact the statistics on actual sexual behavior have changed far less over the last 30 years than media portrayals of sexual behavior. For example, Americans do have more sexual partners in their personal histories than they had two decades ago; nevertheless, most Americans report that in the past year they had zero or one sexual partner. The reason for this phenomenon seems to be that on average, Americans are marrying later but are nevertheless engaging in monogamous sexual activity prior to marriage.l4 Although 80 percent of individuals have intercourse by age 20, the mean age of first intercourse has dropped only from age 18 for those born in the period from 1933 to 1942 to age 17 )/2 years for those born two and three decades later. Furthermore, teenagers have intercourse only spo- radically during the teen years. For example, 19-year-old men surveyed in 1978 had sex on average four times in the past 4 weeks, while a compa- rable group surveyed in 1988 had sex three times in the past 4 weeks.l5 14Robert T. Michael et al. 1995. Sex in America: A Definitive Survey. Warner Books, pp. 88- 91. Sex in America: A Definitive Survey is based on a scholarly volume by Edward 0. Laumann et al., 1995, The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, University of Chicago Press. 15Michael et al., 1995, Sex in America, p. 94.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 123 5.3 THE ROLE OF MEDIA IN PROVIDING INFORMATION ON SEXUALITY TO YOUTH16 It is hardly news that adolescents are very interested in matters of a sexual nature and, beginning in early adolescence, go through a develop- mental process in which they begin to look for information on sex and their bodies as they begin to develop a sense of themselves as sexual beings. Most people would agree that in an ideal world, young people would seek out their parents for information on sexuality. Parents and children would be able to talk about sex, sexuality, and relationships in a mutually respectful manner in an atmosphere of shared values. In this world, children could raise questions without fear and parents could answer them without embarrassment, anger, or apprehension. However, in practice, parents are often reluctant to talk to their chil- dren about sex. When they do, the information they provide is often more about physiological changes than about the emotional terrain that accompanies sexuality or about managing one's own sexuality appropri- ately and healthfully. Adolescents are trying to find out if their bodies are developing normally, and they also begin to have questions about rela- tionships and how to manage sexual interactions. They want answers to personal and even embarrassing questions such as, Am I normal? Is my body normal? Am I developing appropriately at the right speed? What is a tampon and how do I use it? How do you date? How do you kiss? How do you say no without hurting someone's feelings? What is a sexually transmitted disease? How do you use contraception? In addition, be- cause it is often difficult for parents to talk about passion and desire and other such matters with their children, young people sometimes find it difficult to "buy into" a clinical discussion.l7 Considering that young people are often surrounded by media images of sexuality that are com- 16The discussion in Section 5.3 is based largely on Aletha C. Huston, Ellen Wartella, and Edward Donnerstein, 1998, Measuring the Effects of Sexual Content in the Media: A Report to the Kaiser Family Foundation, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif. Available online at <http://www.kff.org/content/archive/1389/content.html>. 17J.D. Brown, K.W. Childers, and C.S. Waszak, 1990, "Television and Adolescent Sexual- ity," Journal of Adolescent Health Care 11: 62-70; V. Strasburger, 1989, "Adolescent Sexuality and the Media," Adolescent Gynecology 36: 747-773; J. Strouse and R.A. Fabes, 1985, "Formal Versus Informal Informational Sources of Sex Education: Competing Forces in the Sexual Socialization of Adolescents," Adolescence 20: 251-263; and B.M. King and J. LoRusso, 1997, "Discussions in the Home About Sex: Different Recollections by Parents and Children," Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy 33: 52-60.
24 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET pletely centered around desire, it is not hard to understand why parents and children often do not communicate effectively about sex. Sex education provided in schools also does not provide a compre- hensive picture. Indeed, sex education in schools is sufficiently contro- versial that its content is very tightly prescribed in terms that will gener- rates.l9 ate the least amount of political argument and heat. For example, 14 states have required that sex education (if it is taught) must teach absti- nence or abstinence until marriage. These states do not, however, also require that schools teach information about other forms of contraception, though abstinence-based curricula do emphasize contraceptive failure In practice, if parents and schools are not providing young people with answers to the questions that they actually have, many will turn elsewhere to get additional information about sexuality. These other sources include their friends who often have much misinformation to share as well as the media.20 The media may be a particularly appealing source of information for adolescents because it can be accessed anony- mously.21 One can imagine (or perhaps even recall) the types of reactions and resulting feelings of embarrassment that might accompany question- ing a peer or parent about sexuality (e.g., from a peer, "You mean you don't know that," or from a parent, "Why are you asking thatch. The anonymity of the media, and of the Internet especially, offers a way to obtain information about very sensitive matters about sexuality and sexual health and allows the adolescent to avoid embarrassing face-to- 18For example, one survey indicated that 72 percent of mothers believed that they had talked with their teenagers about sex, while only 45 percent of those teens agreed. See J. Jaccard and P. Dittus, 1993, "Parent-Adolescent Communication About Premarital Preg- nancy," Families in Society 74~6~: 329-343. 19M. Sutton, J.D. Brown, K. Wilson, and J. Klein, 2001, "Shaking the Tree of Knowledge for Forbidden Fruit: Where Adolescents Learn About Sexuality and Contraception," Sexual Teens, Sexual Media, J.D. Brown, J.R. Steele, and K.W. Childers, eds., Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N.J.; J.D. Brown and S. Stern, "Sex and the Media," Encyclopedia of Communication and Infor- mation, Macmillan, New York, in press; and Kaiser Family Foundation, 2000, Sex Education in the U.S.: Policy and Practice, Report No. 3049, available online at <www.kff.org/content/ 2000/3048/Issue percent20Update.PDF> (October 3, 2001~. 20Sutton et al., 2001, "Shaking the Tree of Knowledge for Forbidden Fruit;" Brown and Stern, "Sex and the Media," in press. 21As one data point, consider that sexual health information is rated by online youth as "very important for people their age" in larger percentages (84 percent) than any other type of online information. (Information about drugs and alcohol are regarded as very impor- tant by 75 percent of online youth.) See Rideout, 2001, Generation Rx.com: How Young People Use the Internet for Health Information.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 125 face encounters.22 (A major disadvantage of media especially Internet media as a source of sexual information is that its accuracy is often not verified. School-age children may be far less cognizant of this fact than would be appropriate, and they are likely to search out information, aware of the advantages of anonymity but unaware of the disadvantages of potential inaccuracy.) In the absence of other comfortable venues for seeking information, media sources help to fill information gaps for young people, providing information about topics that parents and schools are not discussing. As early as 1980, studies documented the strong influence of the media on an individual's sexual self-evaluation and the lack of influence exerted by family variables.23 Given the increasing role of the Internet as a source of reliable information for young people as they conduct research for school papers and seek homework help, one can imagine that the media's influ- ence will only increase. In fact, more recent studies have documented that the mass media is a particularly significant resource for sexual informa- tion for adolescents.24 Research on print media suggests that turning to the media for infor- mation on sexuality is also a normative behavior among teens. The major- ity of adolescent boys have seen at least one issue of Playboy, while girls tend to turn to women's magazines for example, Seventeen Magazine for young teens, and for girls older than 14 Glamour and Cosmopolitan. Maga- zines like Glamour provide very explicit information on topics such as relationships with boys and content devoted to sex, flirting, and various romantic aspects of relationships. The fact that young people often turn to the media to help deal with some of the issues associated with their changing selves has both positive and negative dimensions. On the one hand, many young people may find 22On the flip side, the anonymity of the Internet is highly attractive for children actively seeking sexually explicit materials for fantasy purposes. This anonymity provides a free- dom to explore a wide range of material without having to reveal one's identity or to engage an adult to assist in the search. Consequently, the embarrassment or shame that he or she might feel is absent (though some of those to whom the committee spoke expressed concerns about "getting caught"), and with it many of the social inhibitions against seeking such content. 23J.A. Courtright and S.J. Baran. 1980. "The Acquisition of Sexual Information by Young People," Journalism Quarterly 1: 107-114. 24Brown et al., 1990, "Television and Adolescent Sexuality"; Strasburger, 1989, "Adoles- cent Sexuality and the Media"; Strouse and Fabes, 1985, "Formal Versus Informal Informa- tional Sources of Sex Education: Competing Forces in the Sexual Socialization of Adoles- cents"; King and LoRusso, 1997, "Discussions in the Home About Sex: Different Recollections by Parents and Children."
26 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET reassurance that their curiosity about sexuality, and the changes in their bodies, are normal and they need not feel ashamed of their changing physiques. Television and movies in particular, and to some extent print media, may provide information about "scripts" for romantic interaction by depicting scenes in which these activities take place.25 Teens can watch to see how other people resolve these situations and make judgments as to whether they feel this is an appropriate path to resolution for their situations.26 In searching the Internet, young people also have a very good chance of finding valid and responsibly presented information on sexual health from reliable sources such as the Surgeon General,27 Planned Parenthood,28 or the American Social Health Association,29 all of which can be reassuring and also may help young people to be more responsible in the choices they make with regard to their sexuality. On the other hand, using the media as a primary source for informa- tion about sexuality has a variety of risks. It can create unrealistic expecta- tions for oneself. For example, bodies portrayed in the media as sexually attractive are often unattainable (e.g., very thin physiques for girls and well-defined, sizable muscles for boys), and a young person who per- ceives his or her body as not fitting into these norms may be troubled rather than reassured.30 Another study found that virgin adolescents who believed that media characters experienced high levels of sexual satisfac- tion were less satisfied with their own state of virginity.31 Still another 25L.J. Heinberg and J.K. Thompson. 1995. "Body Image and Televised Images of Thinness and Attractiveness: A Controlled Laboratory Investigation," Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 14: 325-338. A script is a set of expectations about how certain kinds of interac- tion will unfold and about how one will act in those interactions. More discussion can be found in Chapter 6. 26National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. 2001. Nontechnical Strategies to Reduce Children's Exposure to Inappropriate Material on the Internet: Summary of a Workshop. Board on Children, Youth, and Families and Computer Science and Telecommunications Board. Joah G. Iannotta, ed. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C. See also the discussion by Jane Brown on pp.21-26, C. Pardun, 2001, "Romancing the Script: Identifying the Romantic Agenda in Top-grossing Movies," Sexual Teens, Sexual Media, J.D. Brown, J.R. Steele, and K.W. Childers, eds., Erlbaum, Hillsdale, N.J. 27See <http: / /www.sexualhealth.com/>. 28See <http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health/>. 29See <http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health/>. 30Heinberg and Thompson, 1995, "Body Image and Televised Images of Thinness and Attractiveness: A Controlled Laboratory Investigation," L. Hofschire and B. Greenberg, 2001, "Media's Impact on Adolescents' Body Dissatisfaction," Sexual Teens, Sexual Media. 31S.J Baran. 1976. "Sex on TV and Adolescent Self-Image," Journal of Broadcasting 20: 61- 68.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 127 study found that adolescents were most likely to be dissatisfied with their first sexual experience (intercourse) if they relied on media messages about sexuality.32 Perhaps more important, media sources often depict in a positive light behavior that is inconsistent with the stated values of many parents and other adults. The messages about sexuality contained in the traditional media romantic script tend to be irresponsible and po- tentially emotionally and physically unhealthy. These sources answer adolescents' questions about sexuality with messages that do not always represent safe or healthy choices. Adult-oriented sexually explicit mate- rial may "up the ante" in that the messages are very explicit and overt, and certainly this type of material can be found easily online. 5.4 DIMENSIONS OF EXPOSURE AND ACCESS TO THE INTERNET 5.4.1 Venues of Access As noted in Chapter 2, individuals obtain access to the Internet through an Internet service provider (ISP). However, it is quite common for many individuals to have more than one. For many youth, multiple venues for access to the Internet are likely, with home, school, and library access as perhaps the most common channels but with many others as well, all of which have (potentially) different ISPs and thus may offer different terms of service. For example, youth are likely to have access to the Internet at the homes of a friend, in which the operative rules of supervision and/or access are most likely to be those governing the friend. Internet cafes are open to anyone willing to pay access fees by the hour. Museums (especially those with after-school or weekend programs) often provide Internet access and operate under less stringent rules than do libraries or schools. Many youth after-school programs and other com- munity-based programs are providing Internet access and courses on how to use the Internet. Even commercial establishments are beginning to provide terminals for Internet access.33 The most frequent venues for youth Internet use are home (74 per- cent) and school (73 percent). Almost as many youth use the Internet from someone else's household (68 percent). Public libraries account for a 32Huston et aL, 1998, Measuring the Effects of Sexual Content in the Media: A Report to the Kaiser Family Foundation. 33see, for example, <http://www.eetimes.com/story/OEG20010412S0040> and <http:// siliconvalley.com/docs/opinion/techtest/ml071201.htm>.
128 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET much smaller fraction of Internet use only 32 percent of youth used a library for Internet access in the last year. Internet usage is frequent, with 76 percent using the Internet in the week prior to being interviewed, and with an average frequency of 3 to 4 times per week. On the other hand, 61 percent reported that their typical Internet usage is an hour or less on a typical day 26 percent reported spending 1 to 2 hours on a typical day.34 One important distinction to make about different venues is the de- gree to which any given venue is private (or can be made so). A person wishing to view material that may be subject to social sanction is highly unlikely to do so where he or she can be seen doing so. For example, an Internet access terminal in a mall that faces a walkway with many passers- by is unlikely to be the venue of choice for viewers interested in becoming sexually aroused (though it might well be the preferred venue for some- one intending to shock those passers-by). By contrast, someone with unsupervised access at home (e.g., in a bedroom with a lockable door) is not subject to social sanctions, and thus can view material free of such constraints. Note also that the availability of multiple venues of private and/or unsupervised access means that venue-specific approaches are easily cir- cumvented. A child denied access to various types of content at school, for example, is likely to seek it in another venue where it is more easily available. For this reason, approaches to protecting children from expo- sure to inappropriate material that are venue-specific are not likely to be effective in serving their stated purpose. 5.4.2 Sources and Channels of Exposure Sexually explicit material can be made available to youth from a vari- ety of different sources and in a variety of ways. One major distinction that often drives the means by which sexually explicit material is made available is whether the source carrying such material is doing so for commercial purposes or has no financial motivations. The commercial online adult entertainment industry that makes sexually explicit material available for profit is generally thought of as the most significant source of sexually explicit material that may be regarded as inappropriate for minors. As described in Chapters 1 and 3, the type of content on such Web sites includes images equivalent to those viewed in music videos 34Joseph Turow with Lilach Nir. 2000. ''The Internet and the Family: The view of U.S. Parents,,, in Children in the New Media Landscape: Games, Pornography, Perceptions, Cecilia von Feilitzen and Ulla Carlsson, eds. UNESCO International Clearinghouse on Children and Violence on the screen, Sweden.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 129 and those seen in it-rated movies, as well as other images that are extraor- dinarily graphic, are sexually explicit, and cater to specialized sexual tastes. In most cases, the images that are available for free serve as "teas- ers" for subscription Web sites that contain much more of the same. Less graphic but still sexually suggestive images may sometimes be found on Web sites associated with firms with a significant "bricks-and-mortar" presence that are using the Web essentially as an advertising medium to draw attention to their products and services (for example, Frederick's of Hollywood and Victoria's Secret). Noncommercial carriers of sexually explicit content are much more varied as varied as the motivations for carrying such content. For example: · Child pornography is often carried by individuals who are not motivated by the prospect of financial reward. Rather, these individuals are often part of a community in which the ethos is that "to get pictures, you must contribute pictures." · Friends sharing pictures online the online equivalent of showing a friend a purloined centerfold prior to the Internet are not motivated by financial reward or even by a community ethos. · Electronically sending a sexually explicit picture to someone anonymously for purposes of h~r~.~.~ment i.~ ~ener~liv not motiv~ter3 hv _ O_ ) the prospect of financial reward. · Newsgroups containing sexually explicit material do not exist as the result of any financial reward inherent in their existence. Instead, they provide a convenient method for exchanging material according to a much less rigid ethos than that which governs those who exchange child pornography. · People engage interactively in "cybersex" online real-time dialog with someone (usually text-based) that interactively describes sexual be- havior and actions with one's online partner for erotic purposes and ex- pression. The intent can vary: sometimes, such interactive chat provides fodder for a masturbatory fantasy. In other cases, it is simply a "hack"- making fun of someone else for taking cybersex seriously. In still other cases, it is a prelude to face-to-face meetings and a possible sexual connec- tion. (Interactive chat of a non-sexual sort is also a key element of preda- tory connections that entice young people to meet face-to-face with other users, an action that may put them in potential physical danger.) · Individuals often have personal profiles or Web pages on the Inter- net, which in general are intended to be found by others. For those seeking sexual contact, either in person or online, these profiles may be sexually provocative and explicit, so as to draw attention from those simi- larly interested.
130 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET · Individuals with exhibitionist tendencies find the Internet an easy way to satisfy such desires without the expectation of making money in the enterprise. The channels through which individuals can be exposed to such con- tent are also diverse. Because the Internet is not merely a repository of Web sites to be passively browsed, but rather a dynamic and interactive system, the opportunity for users to be exposed to inappropriate content is not limited to viewing commercial Web sites alone. For example: · Bulletin boards or newsgroups may contain explicit imagery or graphic language and may center on inappropriate themes. · "Spam" e-mail that is unsolicited can contain links to inappro- priate sexually explicit images. Spam is often associated with operators of adult Web sites seeking to increase traffic to their sites. As noted in Chapter 2, participants in chat room conversations and users of IM soft- ware often receive links to such sites. · Publicly accessible user "profiles" associated with a screen name or a login name are used to provide information about the owner of that name, and often contain links to Web sites. Sometimes, the operator of an adult-oriented Web site will use a sexually provocative screen name to draw attention to the profile, and include a link to that site. Someone who reads the profile will often click on the link, thinking that the profile's owner is an individual and with the expectation of receiving personal information. Because such links often do take the user to a Web site with personal information about the owner, this expectation is not unreason- able. But when the profile owner is the operator of an adult Web site, the link takes the user unexpectedly to one containing sexually explicit material. · Open chat rooms in which Internet users can communicate via text messages in real time are a participatory public forum in which the norms of behavior and communication are often outside of societal norms of decency regarding the representation and discussion of sexuality, aggres- sion, and intergroup relations.35 · Instant messages (IMs) are another kind of interactive form that relies on text-based, real-time interaction. However, they are based on a 35Note also that there can be private chat rooms, in which those who participate do so by invitation or because they know of the chat rooms existence. For the most part, such chat rooms are not generally subject to intrusions from uninvited guests. some high school students to whom the committee spoke commented that '~when they were younger they participated in public chat rooms, but as they had become older, they found private chat rooms more congenial and better matched to their interests and needs.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 131 one-to-one interaction (and hence are more private, unlike a chat room), and as a general rule, IMs require at least one party to have some prior knowledge of the other namely the other party's screen name. (As noted in Chapter 2, screen names or e-mail addresses, which are sometimes the same thing, can be found in public chat rooms, searches for profiles with particular characteristics, and harvesting e-mail addresses from public postings.) Note that depending on the technology, IMs can also allow transmission and receipt of images and sounds, enabling both real-time voice interaction, videoconferencing, and image exchange on a peer-to- peer basis, without the need for sending e-mail or going to a Web site. · Peer-to-peer networks enable file sharing between individuals. In such networks, the files themselves the information content of interest to end users always remain on client systems and never pass through a centralized server (such as one that would host a Web page). Instead, the peer-to-peer network gives end users the ability to search for particular files of interest and to initiate a direct transfer between the users willing to share (and receive) files without the payment of a fee.36 In addition, peer- to-peer file transfers (as with file transfers effected through e-mail) bypass content filtering, although the function itself can be blocked by certain filters. Box 5.1 highlights one recent report on the use of peer-to-peer networks for obtaining sexually explicit material. The role of Usenet is important as well. As a broad generalization, the frequency with which minors access sexually explicit content through Usenet is low, especially if these individuals are younger than high school age. The reasons are that Usenet often requires some technical sophistica- tion to use (and is generally text-based), and that the sexually explicit content on the World Wide Web is much easier to obtain and more inter- esting in addition. (To the extent that minors do use Usenet, it tends to be for the downloading of information objects such as popular music, block- buster movies, and pirated software.) This should not be taken as an assertion that young people never make use of Usenet, but the committee believes that the primary use of Usenet with respect to sexually explicit 36In Napster-like peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, a central server holds a publicly accessible index to the files available from end users (but not the files themselves). (Napster was originally designed to handle sharing of digital music files, but there is no particular reason that the files in question must be music files and indeed, extensions of the Napster protocol can handle other file types.) Other peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, such as Gnutella, eliminate even the centralized server index function. Users of Gnutella-like sys- tems are connected in a Web (rather than to a centralized index), and a query from one user goes to an immediate circle of possible respondents. If not satisfied, the query then goes from those respondents to other respondents. Furthermore, such queries are highly anony- mous, though file transfers between end users are not.
32 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET material tends to be among adults and it is a prime channel for the exchange of child pornography and other highly "extreme" material. 5.4.3 Extent of Exposure In 2000, the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CACRC) con- ducted a nationally representative, interview-based survey with 1,501 youths aged 10 to 17 who use the Internet regularly (Box 5.2~. This survey measured the extent to which young people came in contact with sexually explicit material, received sexual solicitations from other users, and were
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 133 distressed by the incident.37 Twenty-five percent of youth reported hav- ing had at least one unwanted exposure to sexual pictures in the year before the survey was taken. These figures are approximately consistent with findings of a Kaiser Family Foundation/NPR survey taken in 2001.38 In this survey, 31 percent of children aged 10 to 17 with computers at home reported seeing a "pornographic" Web site, even if by accident. Breaking down by age, 45 percent of those aged 14 to 17 had seen such a site, compared with 15 percent of those aged 10 to 13. Another study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that among teens (aged 15 to 17) online, 70 percent say they have accidentally come across "pornography" on the Web, though 77 percent said they have never come across it or come across it "not too often."39 One in 5 young people reported receiving a sexual solicitation or approach in the last year, and 1 in 30 received an aggressive sexual solici- tation.40 (In the lexicon of the CACRC study, a solicitation is defined as a 37David Finkelhor, Kimberly Mitchell, and Janis Wolak. 2001. Youth Internet Safety Sur- vey. Crimes Against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire. See <http: / /www.ncjrs.org/txtfilesl /ojjdp/fs200104.txt>. 38See <http: / /www.npr.org/programs/specials/poll/technology/>. 39Victoria Rideout. 2001. Generation Rx.com: How Young People Use the Internet for Health Information. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif. Available online at <http://www.kff.org/content/2001/20011211a/GenerationRx.pdf>. Note that the use of the term "pornography" in a survey questionnaire is subject to all of the problems dis- cussed in Chapter 1 regarding the definition of "pornography." As that discussion indi- cates, different people have different understandings of what counts as "pornographic," so one party (but not another) might regard a Victoria's Secret advertisement, the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, or a site devoted to gay and lesbian rights as "pornographic." The author of Generation Rx.com (personal communication, March 2002) spoke with a 14-year- old girl who reported that a lot of kids her age had seen "porn" movies. When asked to provide an example, she said, "You wouldn't believe how many of them have seen Ameri- can Pie." ("American Pie" and "American Pie 2" carry movie-industry ratings of R. which indicate admission forbidden for minors without a parent or guardian. The enforcement of such ratings varies across communities and even across theaters within an individual com- munity, and even if enforcement were uniform, the rating by assumption indicates that minors can obtain access to such movies with parental permission and consent verified by the parent's presence.) Perhaps the most that can be said from a survey based on an undefined term such as "pornography" is that those who reported coming across "pornog- raphy" on the Internet have some sexually oriented concept in mind, even if that concept (and hence the material in question) may vary definitionally (and substantially so) from person to person. 40Note also that these figures may well underrepresent the actual incidence of solicita- tions, because many youth who know that adults are concerned about such solicitations may worry that reporting such incidents could lead to greater parental restrictions on them. Since many older teens think they can deal with such situations, they may not think they are worth reporting.
34 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET request to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk or to give personal sexual information that was either unwanted or made by an adult whether wanted or not. An aggressive sexual solicitation is a sexual solicitation involving offline contact with the perpetrator through regular mail, by telephone, or in person or attempts or requests for offline contact all of which constitute a potential risk of physical safety for young people.) Girls in the survey were targeted for sexual solicitations and approaches
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 135 at almost twice the rate of boys (66 percent compared with 34 percent, respectively). In general, the young people participating in this study were not very distressed by these experiences. Notably, only 6 percent of youth reported that accidentally viewing a sexually explicit image was distressing to them, and 75 percent of youth who had experienced an online solicitation were not very upset or afraid. (Another survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that of online youth aged 15 to 17 who have been exposed to pornography, 45 percent reported being upset by the experi- ence, with 55 percent saying that they were not at all upset or "not too upset.''4l) More young people were very or extremely upset by aggres- sive solicitations (36 percent), and 25 percent were very or extremely afraid. Younger users (aged 10 to 13) were more distressed by solicita- tions than were older users although 22 percent of youth surveyed were 10 to 13 years old, they reported 37 percent of the distressing episodes. This may suggest that younger users have not learned coping strategies for such incidents and have a more difficult time shrugging off such solicitations and that preadolescents are the age group most emotionally vulnerable to sexual solicitations. The CACRC and Kaiser reports are generally consistent with what the committee heard during its site visits. For example, the children to whom the committee spoke during site visits (mostly older adolescents) were in general not particularly concerned by exposure to sexually ex- plicit material. Some were upset by what they saw, but the large majority brushed it off. (In general, there was a correlation with age those in the 16 to 17 age bracket tended to be much less bothered by sexually explicit material than those aged 14 to 16.) Of course, self-reporting can be questioned on the grounds that these teenagers would not have been likely to tell a group of adults about an abiding interest in sexually explicit material or about being upset by such exposure (it would be too "uncool" to do so). On the other hand, what today's adults remember about their own searches of sexually explicit material in their own youths does not necessarily apply to the youth of today. Today's social environment, compared to that of 30 to 40 years ago, is a more sexual one, and much of the material that today's adults sought as teenagers is much more freely available and is thus arguably much less of a "big problem" than in the past. lion. 4lRideout, 2001, Generation Rx.com: How Young People Use the Internetfor Health Informa-
136 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET 5.5 INTERNET EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL, SOLICITATIONS, AND HARASSMENT The impact on children of Internet exposure to sexually explicit con- tent must be seen in the context of a much greater availability and wider range of sexual content than in the past. Although it has long been nor- mative behavior for adolescents to seek out images that are sexually ex- plicit (e.g., viewing one's first National Geographic and Playboy were once rites of passage for many boys), adolescents are bombarded with sexual content in everyday media sources that are to some extent difficult to escape. Images meant to tantalize are embedded in most advertising in television, billboards, and print media, and programming such as music videos, soap operas, and movies contains highly sexualized images and content. Carrying original material and content from many forms of media, the Internet also has a broad range of sexual content. For many it would appear that the range of content including nu- dity, romance, and depictions of sex and intercourse, as well as a variety of sexual proclivities (rape, bondage, bestiality, and so on) seems to be larger and more accessible than what was easily available in the past. Such changes lead some to speculate that there may be a wider range of social mores and a greater permissiveness about sexuality today.42 Given both a broad range of sexually explicit material on the Internet and the numerous ways in which this content can be viewed and ac- cessed, it is worth considering two broad categories of how young people come into contact with this content. Exposure to sexually explicit mate- rial on the Internet can occur inadvertently or intrusively (as when one user deliberately seeks to expose another user to this content), or it can occur as a result of a young person's deliberate choice to seek and view sexually explicit material. Table 5.2 summarizes the various types of inappropriate sexually ex- plicit materials and experiences discussed in this report. 42One suggestion of such a wider range comes from the case of a Utah video-store-chain owner who was indicted in 2000 for selling obscene material. At trial, his attorney sought and obtained records demonstrating a large consumption of erotic video through the pay- per-view channels of a local hotel chain and through cable and satellite television provid- ers. According to these records, residents of Utah County by all accounts a highly conser- vative area of the nation are larger per capita consumers of such material than the rest of the nation. Thus, his attorney argued, the community standards of Utah County in fact were not breached by the sales of erotic video, which could not be held to be obscene under those standards. The chain owner was acquitted on all counts. See Timothy Egan, 2000, "EROTICA INC. A Special Report: Technology Sent Wall Street into Market for Pornogra- phy," New York Times, October 23.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 137 TABLE 5.2 Types of Inappropriate Internet Material or Experience Types of Material or Experience Characterization Inappropriate sexually explicit With a few exceptions, such materials are generally material delivered to a user for passive non-interactive viewing (e.g., through a Web site or via e-mail). Child pornography A category of speech unprotected by the First Amendment, involving material visually depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, including actual or simulated sexual intercourse, bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or the lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of the minor. A category of speech unprotected by the First Amendment, involving sexually explicit material that the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and lacks, when taken as a whole, serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. A category of speech involving material that meets the legal test of obscenity as applied in the context of exposing minors to such material. Under the First Amendment, material in this category is protected for adults, though distribution to minors can be regulated. A broad category of speech involving material that some party or another finds offensive to his or her sensibilities (e.g., so-called "indecent" material). If offensive material does not fall into one of the above categories, it is protected for both adults and minors under the First Amendment. Interaction is by definition interactive the user is an active participant in a dialog with another human being. Solicitations in the absence of physical meetings can be bothersome or frightening to young people. However, if such solicitations lead to face-to-face encounters with predators, the consequences can be catastrophic. Harassment (victim thereof) A young person can suffer as the victim of online harassment. Such harassment can take the form of threats, taunts, insults, or the public posting of disparagingly altered images (e.g., a composite of a head shot grafted onto a picture of an animal) and may be delivered anonymously or with an identity associated with it. A broad category, generally protected under the First Amendment, into which various parties have placed materials promoting hate and racism, violence (e.g., bomb making), religious cults, and so on. Obscenity Material obscene with respect to minors "Offensive" material Inappropriate interaction with others Sexual solicitations from strangers Other inappropriate material
138 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET 5.5.1 Deliberate Search for Sexually Explicit Material Deliberate access results from a child's conscious choice. For ex- ample, a child learns of a Web site providing sexually explicit materials that does not require a password, and uses an Internet browser to view that Web site. Or he or she may search for sexually explicit material using a search engine, typing in terms likely to return links to such material (such as "sex pick". Or a minor in a chat room might broadcast a mes- sage to other chat room participants asking for pictures with explicit sexual content. Or he or she may visit a chat room named so as to attract visitors interested in sexual dialog. Or he or she may sign up to be on a mailing list known to send sexually explicit images to its members via e-mail. Eight percent of those surveyed in the CACRC survey acknowledged choosing to seek out X-rated Internet sites.43 Less than 1 percent said they had used a credit card without permission. Of youth who said they talked online with people they did not know in person, 12 percent had sent a picture to someone they met online, and 7 percent had willingly talked about sex online with someone they had never met in person. Five percent had posted a picture of themselves for general viewing; eleven percent had posted some personal information in a public Internet space, mostly their last name. Twenty-seven percent of e-mail users knew that they had posted their e-mail address in a public place on the Internet. Some of the paths for deliberate and inadvertent exposure to sexually explicit material on the Internet are described in Box 5.3. 5.5.2 Inadvertent Exposure to or Intrusion of Sexually Explicit Material Inadvertent exposure occurs through no deliberate action on the child's part. In the reference scenario described in Chapter 2, the student intends to search for information on a particular (innocuous) topic, but because the term he uses to search is ambiguous, information on more than one topic is returned to the user. A poor search strategy or misspell- ings in the terms used for a search can also result in the inadvertent receipt of sexually explicit material: links to sexually explicit material may be returned even if they were not desired by the child. A child may 43Even though the survey was anonymous and privacy was guaranteed to the survey respondents, such figures are likely to understate the true incidence of such behavior, be- cause of concerns that promises of anonymity might not be kept and reluctance to admit this activity to anyone "anonymous researcher or nosy.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 139 misspell the address of a Web site, and the mistakenly spelled Web ad- dress points to an adult-oriented Web site that has obtained the misspell- ing.44 Or domain names that are most likely innocuous may have been appropriated by owners of adult Web sites.45 Confusion between .com and .gov or .edu suffixes can also be exploited to the advantage of the 44Note that exploitation of misspellings is a time-honored tradition in marketing. One of the most famous stories in this area involved the AT&T 1-800-OPERATOR advertising campaign for collect calls. By dialing 1-800-O-P-E-R-A-T-O-R, the caller was connected to an AT&T operator. MCI owned the number 1-800-O-P-E-R-A-T-E-R (note the misspelling) and took enough of AT&T's business that AT&T discontinued the ad campaign and switched numbers (Business Week, June 13, 1994, p. 78~. 45For example, the name of an indoor professional football team in Texas with a .com suffix leads to an adult-oriented Web site.
140 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET adult Web site owner.46 A user may also mistype the address of a Web site, or improperly guess the address of a Web site,47 and receive inappro- priate material as a result. From time to time, e-mail containing sexually explicit material can be misaddressed. Intrusion occurs when another party "pushes" such material on the child even though he or she has not asked to receive it. Spam e-mail with links to Web sites containing inappropriate sexually explicit material is one example. Web sites that have pop-up windows that open as quickly as a user can close them are another way this exposure can occur. As stated earlier, users can also send IMs to each other and attach images or provide a link to a sexually explicit Web site. Inadvertent exposure is not an uncommon experience. According to the CACRC survey, one minor in four (about 25 percent) had at least one inadvertent exposure to sexually explicit images in 1999, with the major- ity of these exposures occurring to youth 15 years of age or older. In the vast majority of cases (94 percent), the images involved naked persons; in a substantial minority of the cases (38 percent), they involved people having sex. About 8 percent of the images involved violence, in addition to nudity and/or sex. The children who inadvertently viewed these im- ages saw them while searching or surfing the Internet (71 percent), and while opening e-mail, or clicking on links in e-mail or IMs (29 percent).48 Most of these exposures (67 percent) happened at home, but 15 percent happened at school, and 3 percent happened in libraries. For those surfing the Web, the inadvertent exposures happened as the result of searches (47 percent), misspelled addresses (17 percent), and links in Web sites (17 percent). And, in 26 percent of these exposed-while- surfing incidents, youth reported that they were brought to another sex site when they tried to exit the site they were in. For those receiving e- mail that resulted in inadvertent exposure, 63 percent were associated with an e-mail address used solely by the individual; for 93 percent of the inadvertent exposures resulting from e-mail, the sender of the e-mail was unknown to the individual. 46For example, the New York Times reported on a children's financial Web site designed to teach children about money that had been closely associated with a Web site offering adult-oriented sexually explicit material. The original Web site for children, produced by Ernst & Young, was located at <http://www.moneyopolis.com>, while the adult Web site was located at <http://www.moneyopolis.org>. See Susan Stellin, 2001, "Pornography Takes Over Financial Site for Children," New York Times, October 26. 47A common method of guessing the address of a Web site is to try "www.search term.com," where "searchterm" is a term of interest to the user. 48In 17 percent of all incidents of unwanted exposure, the youth said they did know the site was X-rated before entering, but it is not clear to what extent inadvertent exposure resulted from curiosity or navigational naivete despite prior knowledge of the site's X-rated nature.
CHILDREN, MEDIA, AND EXPOSURE TO SEXUALLY EXPLICIT MATERIAL 141 Note that the line between deliberate access and inadvertent expo- sure is not always clear. For example, many search engines return links to Web pages that include a few lines of text associated with each page. If the child intends to search for an innocuous topic, but uses a search term with ambiguous meaning (e.g., "beaver"), a number of links to sexually explicit pages may be returned, along with those few lines of text. If that text includes terms such as "hot sex" and "XXX," careful users can avoid such materials. 5.5.3 Sexual Solicitations and Approaches About 3 percent of youth Internet users surveyed by the CACRC received an aggressive sexual solicitation, a rate of exposure far lower than the rate of exposure to sexually explicit material. In addition, 5 percent of youth Internet users were approached sexually, e.g., by being asked sexual questions in a way that caused them to be very or extremely upset or afraid. Girls were aggressively solicited or approached at almost twice the rate of boys, and most of those individuals solicited (77 percent) were 14 or older. The CACRC survey found that adults were responsible for 34 percent of the aggressive solicitations, with most of the adult solicitors reported to be aged 18 to 25. About 4 percent of all solicitors were believed to be older than 25, and 67 percent of all solicitors were believed to be male. Children made 48 percent of the aggressive solicitations. However, in almost all of the cases where the surveyed youth gave an age or gender for a perpetra- tor, the youth had never met the perpetrator in person, thus leaving the accuracy of the identifying information in question. (For perspective, a report of the University of Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Youth Policy found that 47 percent of confirmed sexual assaults on children (defined as those under the age of 18) were committed by relatives and 49 percent were committed by acquaintances, such as a teacher, coach, or neighbor, while only 4 percent of sexual assaults were committed by strangers.49) The concern with solicitations is based on a troubling pattern of be- havior that often characterizes a child's online conversation with a solici- tor in a chat room or via instant messaging. In a typical interaction be- tween predator and victim, the predator begins with dialog that is entirely innocuous.50 Over time (perhaps weeks or even months), the predator 49Richard J. Estes and Neil Alan Weiner. 2001. The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, university of Pennsylvania, School of Social Work, center for the Study of Youth Policy, Philadelphia, September 18. 50see, for example, Kenneth v. Lanning, 2001, Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis, 5th Edition, National center for Missing and Exploited Children, Alexandria, vat
42 YOUTH, PORNOGRAPHY, AND THE INTERNET grooms his target, seeking to build rapport and trust. No single piece of dialog is necessarily sexual or even suggestive, but as the victim begins to trust the (anonymous) predator, conversations become increasingly per- sonal. A young adolescent is strongly motivated by the need to separate from parental authority and to gain acceptance for his or her growing adulthood. Further, he or she is usually inexperienced in dialog with adults (especially adults with cunning and guile) and is likely to be rela- tively honest in sharing his or her emotional state or feelings. The preda- tor plays on this need for acceptance and a child's naivete. Sexually explicit dialog and/or material is unlikely to be a part of this dialog in its early stages, and may never emerge. When it does, it is introduced gradu- ally and slowly in order to reduce the inhibitions of the victim and make him or her more likely to be willing to meet. 5.5.4 Harassment In addition to encountering sexual solicitations and inadvertent expo- sure to sexually explicit material, youth on the Internet are subject to other threatening or offensive behavior directed toward them, including threats of assault aimed at them, their friends, family, or property, as well as efforts to embarrass or humiliate them. Six percent of regular youth Internet users experienced feeling either worried or threatened because someone was bothering or harassing them online, or because someone used the Internet to threaten or embarrass them by posting or sending messages about them for other people to see. Boys and girls were tar- geted about equally, while about 70 percent of the episodes involved youth 14 and older. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of those harassing youth were other juveniles, and almost a quarter of harassment perpetra- tors lived within a 1-hour drive of the youth. The primary forms of harassment were IMs (33 percent), chat-room exchanges (32 percent), and e-mails (19 percent). About 12 percent included an actual or attempted contact by telephone or regular mail, or in person. According to the CACRC, an important feature of harassment is that, more than sexual solicitation, it involves people known to the youth and people known to live nearby. Some of the threatening character of these episodes stems from the fact that the targets do not feel completely protected by distance and anonymity, and that the harasser could actually carry out his or her threats.5~ AD. Finkelhor, K.J. Mitchell, and J. Wolak. 2000. Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation's Youth. Crimes Against Children Research Center and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Alexandria, Va.