Pornography (Family Safety)
Pornography is a business. In fact, it is much larger than most people realize. It is one of the largest industries in the world, with an estimated $97 billion in annual revenues worldwide. Pornography generates more money on an annual basis than most sports, television or other entertainment industries. For example, in just the U.S., the porn industry generated more annual revenue than the television networks of ABC, CBS and NBC combined. It is not a small industry.
As with any industry, simply having a lot of content is not enough to keep the business thriving. The purveyors of this content have aggressive marketing campaigns and do everything possible to get this content in front of potential buyers. The sad truth is that the Internet has provided fertile ground for growing their business. The World Wide Web creates an environment where we no longer need to go searching for this adult content. It now comes directly to us, often when we are not even seeking it.
The Internet has provided a mechanism for much more targeted marketing efforts, and allows companies to target those efforts to a very specific demographic for extremely little cost. In the pre-Internet days, companies had to print advertisements and mail them to your home. Today, they can simply place content on the Internet where you would easily “stumble” upon it, or they could “spam” it directly to your email inbox. Both of these methods carry very limited cost—there is nothing to print out, no cost for mailing, etc. Unfortunately, the pornography industry views most of the population as their demographic and can target their efforts to everyone with an Internet connection.
Obviously, these marketing methodologies work very well. Recent studies have shown that 40 million people are “sexually involved” over the Internet and that the average age of first exposure to sexually explicit content on the Internet is 11 years old. The Crimes against Children Research Center has reported that 1 in 5 teenagers who regularly log onto the Internet have received a sexual solicitation via the web. Sex, pornography and the Internet are tightly intertwined and the problem is growing exponentially.
Years ago, we were warned of the drug dealers who lurked around schools and provided free drugs to children. Once the children experimented with their free dose, they would be hooked and the dealer then had a steady clientele. Studies have shown a similar addiction from viewing pornography. In a DVD entitled “Pornography: The Great Lie,” the Utah Coalition against Pornography discusses how the porn industry has followed a similar business model to the drug dealers of old. Some people go to work every day with the express intent of getting their pornographic content in front of as many people as possible free of charge. They know this content to be highly addictive and are doing everything in their power to get this content in front of anyone who could be drawn in and eventually pay for more of that content. The Internet has given them a perfect venue for such activities. No longer do they need to convince people to trudge down to the local corner store to purchase their adult materials–they simply need to turn on their computer.
Anonymity magnifies the problem
The lure of anonymity has made this content available without social stigma. No longer do people need to be concerned about their neighbor recognizing them, or seeing the mailman deliver a magazine that they might be embarrassed to possess. Instead, they can sit at their computer, in the privacy of their own home, and consume as much of this content as they like. The problem is that the content is also available to everyone else who accesses the Internet—including our children.
There was a time when the only risk of a child viewing pornographic material in their home was if the parent brought it into the home. Purchase of the material was limited to adults and the primary way for the content to get into the home was from an adult member of the family who would purchase it and bring it home. Today, however, simply connecting your computer to the Internet makes it possible for this content to come into your home, without your knowledge, consent or approval. The parent’s only fault is connecting the computer to the Internet, and leaving the access unprotected.
The Internet is indeed a very dangerous place. It is not a family-friendly environment. And yet, the children know more about it, and are more familiar with it, than their parents. So, what is a parent to do? While some have simply decided not to allow the Internet in their homes, this does not completely solve the problem. Our families have access to the Internet at friends’ homes, school, the library, work, cyber cafés and many other places. Throwing our hands up or sticking our head in the sand does no good. We need to educate ourselves about what content our children are viewing—whether they seek it out or it is forced upon them. The more we know about the Internet and its dangers, the better armed we are to have an intelligent conversation with our children.
Advice from Church leaders
- President Gordon B. Hinckley: "While the matter of which I speak was a problem then, it is a much more serious problem now. It grows increasingly worse. It is like a raging storm, destroying individuals and families, utterly ruining what was once wholesome and beautiful. I speak of pornography in all of its manifestations."
- Elder Dallin H. Oaks: "Pornographic or erotic stories and pictures are worse than filthy or polluted food. The body has defenses to rid itself of unwholesome food. With a few fatal exceptions, bad food will only make you sick but do no permanent harm. In contrast, a person who feasts upon filthy stories or pornographic or erotic pictures and literature records them in this marvelous retrieval system we call a brain. The brain won’t vomit back filth. Once recorded, it will always remain subject to recall, flashing its perverted images across your mind and drawing you away from the wholesome things in life." 
- Elder Dallin H. Oaks: "Pornography impairs one’s ability to enjoy a normal emotional, romantic, and spiritual relationship with a person of the opposite sex. It erodes the moral barriers that stand against inappropriate, abnormal, or illegal behavior. As conscience is desensitized, patrons of pornography are led to act out what they have witnessed, regardless of its effects on their life and the lives of others. Pornography is also addictive. It impairs decision-making capacities and it “hooks” its users, drawing them back obsessively for more and more."
- Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin: "The plague of pornography is swirling about us as never before. Pornography brings a vicious wake of immorality, broken homes, and broken lives. Pornography will sap spiritual strength to endure. Pornography is much like quicksand. You can become so easily trapped and overcome as soon as you step into it that you do not realize the severe danger. Most likely you will need assistance to get out of the quicksand of pornography. But how much better it is never to step into it. I plead with you to be careful and cautious."
Tips & suggestions
- Install an Internet filter, and review the reports regularly
- Watch for the warning signs: Extreme usage of the Internet, withdrawing from family activities, depression, etc.
- Make use of Church sites, such as OvercomingPornography.org
- For those who have viewed pornography or are at risk, have frequent discussions concerning computer or other Internet device usage.
- Jerry Ropelato, Internet Pornography Statistics, TopTenREVIEWS
- David C. Bissette, Psy.D., Internet Pornography Statistics: 2003, HealthyMind.com
- Dr. David Finkelhor, Youth Internet Safety Survey, Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice
- Gordon B. Hinckley, A Tragic Evil among Us, Ensign, Nov 2004, 59–62
- Challenges for the Year Ahead (pamphlet, 1974), 4–5; reprinted in “Things They’re Saying,” New Era, Feb. 1974, 18
- Dallin H. Oaks, Pornography, Ensign, May 2005, 87
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, Press On, Ensign, Nov 2004, 101