Unwanted and Wanted Exposure to Online Pornography in a National Sample of Youth Internet Users

OBJECTIVE. The goal was to assess the extent of unwanted and wanted exposure to online pornography among youth Internet users and associated risk factors. METHODS. A telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 1500 youth Internet users aged 10 to 17 years was conducted between March and June 2005. RESULTS. Forty-two percent of youth Internet users had been exposed to online pornography in the past year. Of those, 66% reported only unwanted exposure. Multinomial logistic regression analysis was used to compare youth with unwanted exposure only or any wanted exposure with those with no exposure. Unwanted exposure was related to only 1 Internet activity, namely, using file-sharing programs to download images. Filtering and blocking software reduced the risk of unwanted exposure, as did attending an Internet safety presentation by law enforcement personnel. Unwanted exposure rates were higher for teens, youth who reported being harassed or sexually solicited online or interpersonally victimized offline, and youth who scored in the borderline or clinically significant range on the Child Behavior Checklist subscale for depression. Wanted exposure rates were higher for teens, boys, and youth who used file-sharing programs to download images, talked online to unknown persons about sex, used the Internet at friends' homes, or scored in the borderline or clinically significant range on the Child Behavior Checklist subscale for rule-breaking. Depression also could be a risk factor for some youth. Youth who used filtering and blocking software had lower odds of wanted exposure. CONCLUSIONS. More research concerning the potential impact of Internet pornography on youth is warranted, given the high rate of exposure, the fact that much exposure is unwanted, and the fact that youth with certain vulnerabilities, such as depression, interpersonal victimization, and delinquent tendencies, have more exposure
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The 2005 Youth Internet Safety Survey conducted phone interviews with 1,422 youth to measure exposure to online pornography during the previous year and the characteristics of those most at risk of being exposed. Online pornography was defined as pictures on a website or as a downloaded image of naked people or people having sex. Youth were divided into three groups: those with wanted exposure (they wanted to see the image); unwanted exposure (they did not want to see the image); and those with both types of exposures. Youth were also asked about how they used the Internet. The only type of Internet use related to unwanted exposure was the use of file-sharing programs to download images. More than half of all boys 14-15 years old and two-thirds of 16-17 year olds had some exposure to online pornography. As boys aged, they were more likely to want exposure than not. Among girls, wanted exposure increased slightly with age but unwanted exposure strongly increased. Depressed youth were slightly more likely to be exposed to wanted and unwanted pornography. Filtering, blocking, or monitoring software and law enforcement presentations reduced unwanted exposure to online pornography.
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Adolescent/high school; media/internet
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