Porn on the Net - The Truth for a Change
©1997,1998 by A.Lizard
presented as a public service by Reptilian Associates
This document needs drastic revision. Unfortunately, click-through porn sites have changed everything since this page was originally written. Now, it's possible for a "free" porn site to generate income for the amateur user, who no longer has much to lose by putting one up, as these are usually one of the free sites, and if the site provider yanks it, the user will simply put up a new page somewhere else. I'm leaving this page in place as a placeholder pending future revision whenever I have time. Sorry, I've been busy doing other things. However, the discussion regarding the lack of actual harm to kids continues to be true, the Web is safer than the average high school even for an intense young user. Porn on the Web
Are you a parent afraid to let your child use the Web because of the army of pornographers that allegedly inhabit it?
I used to work for a company that made "kiddie protection" software for the Web, they intended to compete with Surfwatch. What's here is based on my observations at that company (never mind who) and my several years of experience on the Internet. Most of what's here are things companies like Surfwatch do not want you to know.
First, the nasty, awful people on the Internet are not going to reach through your computer monitor and suck your kids up into cyberporn space. As a parent, this may be bad news to you. Sorry. In fact, a child who is viewing anything above a mild "R" rated picture online has gone to a great deal of trouble and effort to do so.
Here's how to "protect" your child against pictures of sexual intercourse, "deviant" sex acts, and in general, anything above a mild "R" rating. (Bare female breasts can be found, starting with on-line art galleries. If they worry you, turn off your computer and find a psychiatrist.) Lock up your credit card. That's all you have to do.
1. Commercial pornographers DO NOT WANT your child as a customer,, it's just too dangerous. Regardless of the status of the Internet censorship legislation, knowingly exposing a kid to "obscene" material is illegal under existing state and Federal laws. They want proof of age before a person enters a site, a credit card or an adult ID based at present on a credit card reference.
2. Amateur pornographers? If a person puts a "porno" site on the Web and announces it as such and doesn't restrict it, it lasts an average of 3 days or less. It isn't that the Internet Service Provider (ISP) is trying to suppress pornography.
The problem is that "dirty pictures" are popular. FREE access to dirty pictures is EXTREMELY popular. Every access to a Web site, every downloaded text file or graphic costs the provider money. This cost is usually fairly trivial, that's why so many ISPs, including this one feature free Web pages with the rental of an account on their systems. A few hundred visits a day per page are trivial enough in cost that this is not a problem. Put pornographic pictures on your site and let the word get around and... you've got hundreds of thousands or millions of visits per day. Worse, graphics files of say, 200K each consume more in system resources than a text file of 3K per page... the result is usually an overloaded ISP on which nobody can get into ANY Web site maintained there, and a phone call from that ISP to the amateur porn exhibitor telling them to either pay for much more bandwidth or close the site voluntarily. [This isn't as true as it used to be, the economics of Web porn have changed drastically]
How Many Kids Have Been Harmed?
An article from Wired News reveals that "fewer than 30 children have been harmed as a result of online encounters in the history of the Net, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington". Not bad for 25 years of operation. That makes the Internet quite a bit safer than the average high school or for that matter, your house or apartment.
How to "Protect" Your Child From "Bad" Ideas
Here's the bad news. "Bad" ideas are in the eye of the beholder. NAMBLA, neo-Nazi sites, the Republican (substitute your least favorite political group) National Committee sites are out there. Politics you don't like, subcultures you don't like, people you don't like saying things you despise are out there. All I can suggest is try to teach your kid that just because it's in print, whether it's in a book or printed on a Web page doesn't mean that it's so. I'd personally follow that with my favorite irrational idiocy-themed Web sites, your kid should get the point after she stops laughing. Or you can try to supervise the kid's Web usage. Remember, a "bad" idea is only a mouse-click away.
In real life, I suggest that you as a parent simply encourage your kid to bring anything that doesn't make sense to him or her, make time to do this.
The good news is that the great majority of sites (I'd guess 99%) on the Web have only one danger attached to them. . . terminal boredom.
Porn on Usenet ***work in progress***
This may be the one place a porn-blocker program actually makes sense. For the most part, if you block:
That's 90% of the serious adult Usenet content. As for "bad" language, a parent who is concerned about kids being exposed to that had better restrict their kid to the k-12 newsgroups and sites only, the Internet is an adult environment, except for sites and newsgroups which are specifically designated for children.
While you could try blocking ALL alt. groups (alt.*), the victim of your censorship will miss a lot of useful and interesting information on quite a few different subjects and some valuable friends.
The major danger of most chat spaces is that they are anonymous, in most cases, one chooses one's "handle" as they enter the room. Sometimes one can deduce the intended topic of the room from the name, if it's called "Incest_Is_Best" and a teen goes in anyway, as a parent, there are limits to the amount of stupidity one can protect your kid from. Sometimes anonymity is funny. The classic story of a couple of 12 year old boys posting as lesbians with big tits in order to get people to pay attention to them probably happens several times a day. I was once looking over the shoulder of a boy who was typing into a chat gallery "Sorry, got to go back to the office now." Was he typing at an adult or a kid pretending to be an adult? Who cares?
The reasons why I stay out are:
One writer said that the problem with these spaces is that one can't build a community in which the members are all totally anonymous. Personally, I find online communities the most interesting places to hang out in online. More to the point, these spaces are not good places to build relationships. At least if you run into somebody on Usenet, SOMEBODY knows who he / she / it is; the Internet Service Provider who that user pays certainly knows.
The problem from a parental point of view is that there's absolutely no supervision, usually no way to know who is really in these spaces, and there are pedophiles who do, in fact, cruise these spaces.
My advice is for kids to AVOID them, except in supervised situations, there are some kid oriented sites in which chatting is probably safe. Or safer.
So What Can A Parent Do?
If you've got very young children, you might try restricting their unsupervised access to the Internet to the k-12 Usenet newsgroups (k12.*) and Web sites and e-mail addresses. . .
There are site blocker products like Surfwatch and others, you can find reviews of these products here.