Keeping Children from the Internet’s ‘Red Light District’: Increased Regulation or Improved Technology?

June 16, 2012

The Internet has revolutionized the world by providing virtually unlimited access to information and by creating a new medium for social interaction. While extremely advantageous, this unlimited access to information also leads to children being exposed to potentially harmful, sexually explicit material. With its vast number of sites, it is estimated that the World Wide Web contains more than one billion different Web pages. Approximately fifteen million of these pages have pornographic content. With this many sites, access to pornographic websites is only one click away, whether intentional or not. For example, if one accidentally types ‘whitehouse.com’ instead of ‘whitehouse.gov,’ one will end up at a pornographic website offering a free trial membership.
By the year 2005, forty-four million children under the age of eighteen are expected to be using the Internet. As children’s access to the Internet and the number of websites continue to grow, there is continual debate over what, if anything, should be done to shield children from these pornographic sites. Congress has repeatedly and, to date, unsuccessfully tried to regulate access to these sites by children. The debate centers on how best to protect children from pornography without violating free speech rights guaranteed in the First Amendment. In the end, the best solution may come from market forces and new technology instead of laws, since the unique nature of the Internet makes it extremely difficult to regulate.