Child Pornography: An Internet Crime

By Max Taylor; Ethel Quayle | Go to book overview
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Chapter 8

A model of problematic Internet use

Previous chapters in this book have explored the range of activities related to child pornography and the Internet. Although the issues raised are matters of considerable public concern, we have noted many times that there is little by way of consistent analysis in the area, and a marked absence of conceptual thinking from which more empirically based approaches to management of the problem can draw. As an attempt to address this gap, in the following we present a model of adult sexual interest in children and problematic Internet use. Such a model might serve several functions. It enables us to think of sexual offences against children that arise out of Internet use as being part of a complex array of behaviours, rather than any single activity. Such behaviours occur in relationship to each other, although, because of the process of offending, not all people who use the Internet will engage in offence-related behaviour to the same degree. For example, the person who downloads child pornography as part of an array of pornographies, but who does not communicate with others, trade or produce material, may be qualitatively different from the person who uses children within their social world to produce images to trade on the Internet. The latter has necessarily committed a contact offence against a child in the production of material, but has also had prior engagement with the Internet pornography world that necessitated the production of pictures. It is also evident that while there are people who have previously acknowledged a sexual interest in children, for whom the Internet becomes a medium for meeting their expressed preferences, there are equally those who seem to have had no prior knowledge that the images might be sexually arousing for them. In the latter case, we do not know whether such 'dormant' interests might ever have found expression without the Internet. This model also allows us to look at the cognitions or 'self-statements' that people generate in relation to their activities, that enable them to behave in ways that bring them into conflict with the law.

In developing the model, three issues seem important. The first is to note that adult sexual interest in children on the Internet embraces both illegal and legal activities. Collecting child pornography is illegal, but talking about fantasy or engaging in sexual role-plays while they may be inappropriate are not necessarily illegal. Sharing information about computer security is not illegal, but sharing

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