Pornography has become increasingly acceptable, accessible, and freely available, and it is one of the biggest threats to our children’s online safety. Today, any child with unrestricted Internet access is just a mouse click away from viewing, either intentionally or accidentally, sexually explicit material online, from adult pornography (the kind of images that appear in Playboy) to prosecutable material depicting graphic sex acts, live sex shows, orgies, bestiality, and violence. Even material depicting the actual sexual abuse of a child (child sex abuse material (formerly "child pornography")—once only found on the black market—is instantly available and accessible on the Internet. Through the Internet, much of this aberrant material has entered the mainstream, directly impacting our children's healthy sexual development.
"In 1993, when Internet pornography became public, there was this huge shift; that protective barrier between the sex industry and youth dissolved. There used to be restricted movie houses, order catalogues with brown paper that came in the mail, and all those types of things, where a youth had a difficult time, if not impossible time, accessing pornography. Now, through the Internet, if you have the Internet, you have pornography in your home."
— Jill Manning, Ph.D., Marriage and Family Therapist
Pornography can be thought of as all sexually explicit material intended primarily to arouse the reader, viewer, or listener. The United States Supreme Court has said that there are four categories of pornography that can be determined illegal, which include: indecency, material harmful to minors, obscenity, and child pornography.
1 Indecent material includes messages or pictures on telephone, radio, or broadcast TV that are patently offensive descriptions or depictions of sexual or excretory organs or activities. It is often referred to as “sexual nudity” and “dirty words.”
2 Material harmful to minors (HTM ) represents nudity or sex that has prurient appeal for minors, is offensive and unsuitable for minors, and lacks serious value for minors. There are “harmful to minors” laws in every state.
3 Obscenity (“hard-core pornography”) is graphic material that focuses on sex and/or sexual violence. It includes close-ups of graphic sex acts, lewd exhibition of the genitals, and deviant activities such as group sex, bestiality, torture, incest, and excretory functions. There are federal obscenity laws that criminalize distribution of obscenity on the Internet, but they have not been vigorously enforced.
4 Child pornography (child sex abuse material) is material that visually depicts children under the age of 18 engaged in actual or simulated sexual activity, including lewd exhibition of the genitals.