Exposure to internet pornography among children and adolescents: a national survey

Cyberpsychol Behav. 2005 Oct;8(5):473-86. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2005.8.473.


Estimates suggest that up to 90% or more youth between 12 and 18 years have access to the Internet. Concern has been raised that this increased accessibility may lead to a rise in pornography seeking among children and adolescents, with potentially serious ramifications for child and adolescent sexual development. Using data from the Youth Internet Safety Survey, a nationally representative, cross-sectional telephone survey of 1501 children and adolescents (ages 10-17 years), characteristics associated with self-reported pornography seeking behavior, both on the Internet and using traditional methods (e.g., magazines), are identified. Seekers of pornography, both online and offline, are significantly more likely to be male, with only 5% of self-identified seekers being female. The vast majority (87%) of youth who report looking for sexual images online are 14 years of age or older, when it is developmentally appropriate to be sexually curious. Children under the age of 14 who have intentionally looked at pornography are more likely to report traditional exposures, such as magazines or movies. Concerns about a large group of young children exposing themselves to pornography on the Internet may be overstated. Those who report intentional exposure to pornography, irrespective of source, are significantly more likely to cross-sectionally report delinquent behavior and substance use in the previous year. Further, online seekers versus offline seekers are more likely to report clinical features associated with depression and lower levels of emotional bonding with their caregiver. Results of the current investigation raise important questions for further inquiry. Findings from these cross-sectional data provide justification for longitudinal studies aimed at parsing out temporal sequencing of psychosocial experiences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Erotica* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Motion Pictures
  • Motivation
  • Object Attachment
  • Periodicals as Topic
  • Psychosexual Development
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics as Topic
  • United States