by David Sisler

I do not know if the 3 billion dollar-a-year pornography industry has a motto or not. In case they have no pithy catchphrase, I suggest the following apocalyptic quote from the late rock star, Jim Morrison: "I'm gonna get my kicks before the whole world goes up in flames."

Carnegie Mellon University student, Marty Rimm and Time magazine brought pornography and the Internet into the national debate last summer. The FBI added to the concern when its "Innocent Images" investigation led to dozens of arrests for alleged trafficking in child pornography via America Online, the leading commercial Internet provider. Responding to pressure from German prosecutors, CompuServe, last week blocked access to 200 sex-oriented newsgroups in a portion of the Internet called Usenet.

Critics have almost universally attacked the so-called "Rimm Report" and Time's coverage of it. The report does contain misleading information. For instance, the 917,410 pornographic images which Mr. Rimm's report studied were not obtained from the Internet itself, or its vastly popular World Wide Web. They were downloaded from private, adult-oriented bulletin boards -- which require proof of age (like a driver's license) and are off-limits to minors.

I "surf the Net" almost every day, reading magazines and newspapers and generally, just looking around. One of my favorite features is the random search property provided at many Web sites. It is possible to start exploring one subject and get totally lost, but that's where the fun is. Regardless of how many times I've been on the Net, I have never, repeat, never, just stumbled onto a pornography site. You can find pornography on the Internet, but you have to look for it.

The concern being loudly, and correctly, voiced about pornography and the Internet, is its availability to children.

More laws are not the answer. The United States Supreme Court has clearly spoken. In Roth v. United States (1957) the Court declared, "We hold that obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press" (In case you were wondering, my definition of pornography equates it directly and specifically with obscenity).

In Miller v. California (1973), the Court categorically asserted, "Obscene material is unprotected by the First Amendment."

The Internet represents a global freedom of information, and, obviously, not all of that information is advantageous or beneficial. Many parents who are worried about what their kids may find while "Surfing" are unconcerned about what those same youngsters watch on television. Flipping TV channels can expose them quickly to vast amounts of garbage, and all without any parental supervision.

A long time ago, King Solomon exhorted parents, "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Not every young person is going to look for the porno links. But if your youngster has access to the Internet, and you allow him to explore it without any supervision, you put your child at risk, no matter what sites he accesses.

You can protect your children from on-line pornography. At least three commercial programs are available today, and all have Web sites where you can check them out. You can install Cyber Patrol [] or SurfWatch [] or Net Nanny [] onto your computer and thousands of known links to pornography will be immediately blocked. Each service offers monthly updates which will eliminate any new sites as soon as they crawl out from under whatever rock they are currently hiding.

Writing to Time, Max Allen of Toronto said, "Sex is good, not awful, and most people know it." Pornography perverts sex and makes it awful. The information superhighway is being littered with pornography. Into the exciting world of virtual reality has slithered the slime of virtueless reality. As a parent, you can help preserve America's greatest resources, the minds of our children and the moral strength of our Nation.

In the case of New York v. Ferber (1982) the Supreme Court, speaking specifically about child pornography, stated, "The prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of children constitutes a government objective of surpassing importance." It should also be a parental objective of surpassing importance.

Don't depend on your congressman to write a bill, or the President to sign it into law. Work with your children. Look over their shoulders when they are logged onto the Internet. You can find out easily if your child has ever signed onto Playboy online. If he has downloaded this month's Playmate, the record will be there. The links they reach leave footprints so you can follow their progress.

But you have to pay attention. You must be interested, and your child must know it. Otherwise, he may never find the way he should go, and when he is old, he may be trapped in the darkness, unable to depart from it.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 1/6/96

Copyright 1996 by David Sisler

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