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.