Children's Safety on the Internet Term Paper

Pages: 15 (4143 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 23  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Children

Children's Safety On The Internet

State and federal Internet laws and regulations have made it safer for children online.

One of the most frequent headlines hitting newspapers and also receiving attention in magazines is regarding the issue of online privacy and safety. From one of the oldest crimes such as credit card theft, to relatively new ones such as cyber stalking, the Internet is not just the information super-way that it is glorified to be, but also the dirty mean street filled with pedophiles, pornographers, hate groups and the likes. Children are the most vulnerable to these evils of cyberspace because their powers of discrimination are not in tune with the big bad world. Many parents are also unaware of online threats and hence do not monitor the activities of their wards. This might be because of their lack of exposure to the new technologies (which are picked up by children faster than the adults) or because of their general ignorance. Some parents might also feel that checking on their kids will amount to intruding into their privacy.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Children's Safety on the Internet Assignment

But obviously, the issue of children's online safety is beyond ethics and technology. Exposing children to unsuitable content (not just pornography but also advertising tactics like seductive SPAM emails, chat rooms, and search engines) is against the moral fabric of any civilized nation. However, the social and ethical questions surrounding computer technology and practices is so complex that many citizens tend to mentally divide digital life into "government," on one hand, and people, business, markets, etc. On the other. In this case, the question of how to protect the second group from the former becomes the political philosophy. And any type of action due to this may also result in extreme notions of a "Big Brother" taking away the freedom of its people. A political philosophy of this kind can be widely seen among the many who believe that one consequence of the Internet's popularity will be the inability of respective governments to maintain its power over the common people. But what is to be understood is that the government is not for or against the market, but for the sake of it. This means that rather than being thought of as a policeman, the government should be thought of and should act as a guide. In the light of this argument, it can be understood that the same Congress that passes laws against child pornography tries to encourage use of the Internet through programs to that seeks to expand online connectivity in schools and funds Internet access in schools. Hence the discussion of whether the government Internet laws and regulations have made it safer for children or not can be carried out only under the understanding that in whatever way the government tries to control and regulate the Internet, it has needs to keep in mind how all parties involved are affected.

Of course, this does not mean that the actions of those who abuse innocence children should be supported, but it just means that such people generally do so under the safety of either technological advancements, or general public innocence. In such situations, the users of the Internet should take responsibility rather than wholly depending on laws and regulations.

The focus of this paper will be a dissection of the issue - Have the State and federal Internet laws and regulations made it any safer for the children? Do we judge this level of safety by the number of child-pornographers convicted or is that number an indication of a horrible reality that one cannot cure but only prevent? In attempting to answer these questions and a few more, the paper will seek evidence from State laws. Each of these laws will be analyzed in subsequent sections. The first one will be the Communications Decency Act which was overruled quite prematurely by the court. Subsequently, the Child Online Protection Act was drafted, which will be studied next. As a result of children accessing explicit material from public libraries the Children's Internet Protection Act came into existence. Each of these acts will be studied to see what caused them to fail and hence, their effectiveness will be deciphered.

But first, an analysis of the situation to see how children are affected by the Internet will be presented.


The Internet provides the ability for one to transmit information in a rapid and fairly unsupervised manner, and hence has become the venue of choice for predators who transmit and receive child pornography material. Authorities have noticed the unprecedented growth of pornographers on the Internet because they have an advantage of not being detected easily. As a result of this anonymity, they engage in acts of sending and receiving obscene material [Huycke, 1997]. Robert Flores, a former attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice's Criminal Division, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section opines that "The Internet is the ultimate distribution system for child pornography. Before the Internet, pedophiles and child predators targeted children in parks and playgrounds, offering ice cream or candy to gain the child's trust." [Kaplan, 1997]. This way, cyberspace has become a virtual playground where children can be easily lured into not only providing personal information (that can be later used against them or their parents) but also sexual information that can lead to sexual conversations and sexual contact.

One effective way parents can combat this is by using child-monitoring software and educating their children against the potential hazards of chatting with strangers. But what about computer access outside home such as in public libraries? There is certainly concern in this regard as pointed by research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. The research conducted at pubic and school libraries drew on computer records of online activity, from which it was found that the actual material being downloaded in comparison with the stated reasons for Internet use were very different. The research team reviewed 917,410 images in the 18-month research period to discover that 83.5% of them were pornographic. This reflects the fact that trading explicit photographs is one of the most widely conducted activities over the internet. At one university, 13 of the 40 most frequently visited newsgroups featured sexually explicit posts. Probably the most shocking result was the fact that the material discovered to be viewed or traded went beyond the soft-core pornography on magazine racks. This again was a suggestion of the fact that the online market features images of pedophilia (nude photographs of children in various poses), hebephilia (youth/teens), and paraphilia (images of bondage, sadomasochism, urination, defecation, and sex acts with animals) [Rimm, 1995]

No government worth its name can remain a mute spectator to these events. Hence, starting with the Communications Decency Act, the Congress began its regulatory procedures. Three of these acts will be studied next.

The Communications Decency Act

In response to discoveries such as the one shown in the above mentioned study, the Congress initially enacted the Communications Decency Act (CDA) as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Section 223(a) prohibited knowingly transmitting any "communication which is obscene or indecent, knowing that the recipient of the communication is under [eighteen] years of age," and Section 223(d) prohibited knowingly sending or displaying to a person under eighteen years of age any "communication that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards, sexual or excretory activities or organs."

However, this Act was held unconstitutional in Federal court in July 1997 because it was a violation of the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. This was decided when ACLU and the publisher of the American Reporter, an electronic newspaper, each filed suit, challenging the constitutionality of these two provisions on First Amendment and Fifth Amendment grounds. In the case, it was determined by the Court that the CDA should be reviewed under strict scrutiny, which necessitates a convincing interest and necessary means, acknowledging the protection of the physical and psychological well-being of minors as a compelling interest, including protecting minors from material that is not obscene by adult standards. However, CDA failed constitutional analysis despite the compelling interest because of lack of necessary means that the government did not demonstrate. The Court's opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, discarded censorship of the online medium and to establish fundamental principles to help guide judicial consideration of the Internet for the 21st century. In commentary on the court's decision, Senator Jim Exon (1996), a senior Senator from Nebraska and a cosponsor of the Communications Decency Act noted that:

The Philadelphia court found that there were no effective measures to determine the age of computer users. This technological argument is faulty because as a relatively new medium, the Internet and other interactive computer services are infinitely changeable and their architecture does and can accommodate child screening. The court overlooks that a number of Internet sites already block child access by requiring credit card or adult PIN numbers like those used for automatic teller machines to access certain sites.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Children's Safety on the Internet" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Children's Safety on the Internet.  (2003, November 26).  Retrieved December 5, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Children's Safety on the Internet."  26 November 2003.  Web.  5 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Children's Safety on the Internet."  November 26, 2003.  Accessed December 5, 2021.