CyberWatch Column




Professor of Computer Information Systems

Norwich University, Northfield, VT

This is another in a continuing series devoted to how ordinary people can protect themselves when using the Internet..

Pornography — even with the most restrictive definitions — is widespread on the Internet.  Some studies of Internet traffic have claimed that more than half of the total bandwidth (capacity) is used for transfer of pornography or solicitations for purchase of pornography.

Pornographers use various tricks to get people onto their Web sites.  Some smut-peddlers have purchased licenses to domain names that are strikingly similar to the names of high-interest sites; examples include

Porn sites are notorious for using deceit to defraud their victims.  One widely-used scam is to demand a credit-card number from a visitor as "proof" (it is nothing of the sort) of their age, then to charge the card even though the site clearly states that there is a period of free use.

In 1996, viewers of pornographic pictures on the site were in for a surprise when they got their next phone bills.  Victims who downloaded a "special viewer" were actually installing a program that silently switched their Internet access to a number in Moldova in central Europe.  Some victims who stayed online for a long time paid more than a thousand dollars in long-distance charges.

Place your young kids' Internet-access computers in a family area of the home rather than in the kids' bedrooms.

  • Interact with your children while they are using the Internet; treat the Web browser like a window on the world and help your kids interpret that world in a way consistent with your values.
  • Talk with your kids about the existence and nature of pornography; as they reach puberty, explain that pornography is not a healthy way of learning about wholesome, loving relations.
  • Warn your kids about some of the tricks used by pornographers to get traffic on their Web sites such as telling them to download special readers.  Tell them about the Moldovan porn scam.
  • Discuss junk e-mail that advertises porn sites.  Warn kids that no one should ever click on a URL (address) from any kind of junk e-mail because it can easily be a trick to get them into dangerous territory.
  • Teach your children to keep an eye on the actual URL that appears in the browser window; any discrepancy between the visible URL shown on a page and the actual URL should alert one to the possibility of fraud.
  • Explain to kids that pornographers sometimes charge for access to their sites without permission; be sure your kids understand how dangerous it would be to give your credit card number to these people for any reason.
  • Resources: