Anti Porn Groups Use False Statistics

Porn Studies > Porn in the News

Forbes, 11/23/05 - When Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) introduced the Internet Safety & Child Protection Act in July, aiming to slap a 25% excise tax on online purchases of porn, she cited a startling statistic: Children in the U.S. now typically get their first exposure to porn at age 11. It got picked up in several press reports. "The average age at which a child first views Internet porn is 11," pronounced a Denver Post editorial. "The average age a child first views Internet pornography is 11, and those kids don't look away," intoned Matt Lauer on General Electric-owned NBC's Today show.

"The Internet has changed the whole dynamic of porn," declares Tim Wildmon, president of the fundamentalist American Family Association founded by his father, Donald Wildmon, in Tupelo, Miss. "The average age of the introduction to pornography is now 11 years old."

Just one problem: The assertion is untrue, unsupported and likely of dubious origin, none of which has stopped porn's opponents from using it. Sen. Lincoln lifted the factoid from a report issued in July by Third Way, a new Washington think tank that helps Democrats grab on to red-state issues. A press release accompanying the report, by Third Way staffer Sean Barney, proclaimed, "While it is as difficult as ever for a teenager to walk into a store and buy a pornographic magazine, it is as easy as 'point-and-click' for an 11-year-old child to view streaming pornographic video online."

Where did Third Way get that notion? From a May 12 story in the New York Times-owned Boston Globe headlined "The Secret Life of Boys," which cites an outfit called Family Safe Media. The small firm in Provo, Utah, is in the business of scaring parents into buying software to protect their kids from Internet smut. Jared Martin, who owns Family Safe Media, says he got his porn statistics from Internet Filter Review, a Web site that recommends content-blocking software. It is run by tech entrepreneur Jerry Ropelato of Huntsville, Utah, who pens antiporn screeds, such as "Tricks Pornographers Play," and publishes curious and uncredited stats (for example, "17% of all women struggle with pornography addiction").

"Most of the statistics there have come from literally hundreds of sources, all reputable," Ropelato insists. He says he got the age-11 item from The Drug of the New Millennium, a book about the dangers of porn self-published in 2000 by Mark Kastleman, a self-professed former porn addict in Orem, Utah, who counsels other porn fiends. "I don't remember where I got that from," Kastleman says breezily. "That is a very common statistic." And there the trail goes cold.

But Kimberly Mitchell of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, and Michele Ybarra of Internet Solutions for Kids in Irvine, Calif., say the assertion that "extremely young children" are ogling online porn "may be overstated." Analyzing the results of a random-sample survey of 1,500 kids ages 10 to 17, they recently found that kids don't start seeking out Internet porn until age 14, when they're "age-appropriately curious about sex." Fewer younger kids had gone looking smut--and mostly the old-fashioned way, finding it in their dad's magazines lying around home.

"It seems to suggest the Internet may not be posing the threat that some are concerned it is," says Ybarra.

More ...

Report shows top porn consumers between the ages of 12 to 17*

NBC News, 7/27/05 - It's no secret that the Internet is flooded with pornography, but what many parents don't know is just how many kids are watching.

A report titled "The Porn Standard: Children and Pornography on the Internet" from Third Way, a new Democratic think tank in Washington, says the largest group of consumers of Internet porn is children ages 12 to 17*, with the average age of first exposure being 11*.

But perhaps the most disturbing information in the report, says Third Way president Jon Cowan, is that some online pornography sites actually target children.

"These companies," says Cowan, "are embedding phrases like ‘Disneyland’ and ‘Pokeman’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ into their Web sites, specifically to lure in children."

Third Way was formed recently to help Democrats challenge Republican dominance on issues like family values.

And so it's no accident that, Wednesday, a group of congressional Democrats pounced on the issue, introducing a bill that would require Internet porn sites to verify the age of anyone trying to gain access and imposing a 25 percent tax on purchases made on porn sites.

"I think we've given them plenty of time and plenty of chances to clean up their act," says Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark. "And they haven’t done it. And my impression is they're not going to do it. There's too much money at stake."

But critics say the Democrats' bill would have little effect. They note that there are an estimated 420 million porn Web pages, making enforcement of the age verification requirement impossible. And since many porn Web sites are also based overseas, they're largely beyond U.S. control.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., the chief sponsor of the Democrats' bill and a mother of 9-year-old twins, concedes the bill won't solve the problem and says anything government can do is secondary.

"Parents," says Lincoln, "are without a doubt the best line of defense for their children in trying to make sure they monitor what their children are watching and participating in."

But she says anything government can do to make parents aware of the danger is worth doing.

* This finding comes from Family Safe Media, an outfit that sells Internet filters and other blocking devices. They also say 12 percent of all websites are porn sites and that 25 percent of all search engine requests are for porn.

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Senator Wages War On Online Porn.

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