Parents, Kids, and Pornography on the Internet:
A SuperKids Special Report

Andrew Maisel

Is there really that much pornography (or other objectionable content) on the Internet? A quick look at AltaVista, one of the largest search engines, produced an enlightening comparison:

Subject Number of pages
sex 14,896,710
politics 2,996,060
wine 2,324,620
dogs 1,893,440

Clearly, there are a lot of sources for someone seeking pornographic materials on the Internet. Nonetheless, many parents trust their children not to go looking for this material. "Oh, my kids wouldn't be interested in looking for that," was a common reaction among the parents we spoke with. A debatable point, according to some of our teenage reviewers.

But what was not debatable was the reaction we found among a group of parents SuperKids recently invited to search the Web. Most expressed significant surprise -- not at the availability of pornography on the Net -- but at the frequency of unintentional exposures any Web searcher or surfer will receive.

How easy is it to accidentally encounter pornography?

For example, a shopper's search for young boys clothes on Excite! produced four objectionable sites in the top ten search results. Click here to see an example of what we encountered. Similar results were obtained using all the other search engines we tried: AltaVista, HotBot, Infoseek, and WebCrawler.

OK, you say. But my kids aren't likely to look up "young boys clothes." Here's another reasonable search for a young student -- zoo animals. This search produced a result on HotBot that was even more(!) objectionable than our previous search.

Parents, therefore, need to consider not only whether their children really have no interest in seeking out pornography, but also whether they want their children unintentionally exposed to age-inappropriate materials.

What should parents do?

Bottom-line:

There is a vast amount of pornographic material easily available on the Internet. At a minimum, make sure your children know your feelings about it, and what your expectations are for their behavior.

Perhaps more importantly for most parents, is the reality that frequent unintentional exposure to pornographic sites is unavoidable. Once again, making sure your children know how to handle this is crucial. If you have young children, you may want to seriously consider using one of the software filters SuperKids has reviewed.

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