School Computer Porn Scare Raised

the only pussy we could find: Gavin Bell's friendly feline

Surprise! The greatest information archiving, management and dissemination technology of our time is incapable of spotting the difference between the works of the great artists, and those of the sleazy pornographer. In much the same way the printing press, photocopier and video camera have failed to cope over the years. So why tag the computer and networks for the failure of general human responsibility?

The University of Central Lancashire has announced the results of a study into the awareness and circulation of computer pornography in British schools.

According to the study, which polled more than 7,500 replies from the headmasters of 28,800 schools in England and Wales, almost a third of boys in UK secondary schools admitted they were aware of the existence of computer porn.

In primary schools (for ages 8 to 11), this percentage fell to just two percent, while for both primary and secondary schools, the awareness of girls was just one percent.

Do the findings surprise the police? Not according to Sergeant Philip Stockford, head of the Greater Manchester Police Obscene Publications Squad, who said the real extent of the problem is likely to be much worse.

"While computers are freely available in schools, disks can and will be copied, just as they are for pirated computer games," he said, adding that more effective policing and education in this area is needed if the problem is to be tackled.

Stockford, one of a small band of police officers dealing with the obscene publications, said that the UK has only two police forces with a squad specializing in this area of crime -- Manchester and London.

According to Vicki Merchant, a special officer with Central Lancs University that deals with cases involving sexual and racial harassment, and a driving force behind the report, it highlights a problem that teachers were well aware of, but were not trained to tackle the problem.

Merchant revealed that, while the bulk of the computer pornography circulated in the school playground was relatively soft in nature, some was hard core. The problem stems, she said, from the ease with which a porn magazine or video can be scanned into a computer.

Perhaps the most damning aspect of the report was that some teachers said they had discovered porn involving some of their own pupils, Worse still, some of the porn depicted clearly illegal topics such as domination, children, and bestiality, most of which appeared to originate from video-tapes.

"Computer pornography is a very powerful technology and children are very impressionable. Computing is addictive to some children, so if you can put all these factors together it is good news for pornographers because they have a rapid, high-quality, cheap way of spreading pornography," Merchant said.

Most damning of all, the report highlighted the fact that the primary sources of the material, other from within the school itself, was from the home, in particular from the father’s place of work. It appears from the report that many adults are actively seeking out and hoarding it.

One computer security consultant who has been investigating the problem of computer porn over the last few weeks for a national newspaper told InfoHIGHWAY that computer porn, in particular hard core material, was freely available online as well.

"I think that what surprised me most of all was the fact that, while many of the major online services had the usual run of ‘top shelf’ magazine-style pictures, it was the ease with which I could find very hard core pictures on servers linked to the Internet," he told InfoHIGHWAY on agreement that his name was withheld.

So how does the computer porn get into circulation in the school environment? The report seems to show that, as well as sourcing disks through parents, pupils exchanged or bought disks at computer clubs, downloaded files from bulletin board systems (BBSs) and even bought them by mail order.

Back at the University of Central Lancashire, Merchant said that the problem was immense and one that teachers were clearly worried about. It is important, she said, for people to realize that 30 percent of porn circulating amongst kids as young as eight was hard core and not the type of material that can legally be bought in a magazine, even by adults, in the UK.

Perhaps the answer is that parents and teachers should exercise that rare commodity that has gone out of favour in recent years: control of the kids. By knowing what the kids are up to, and where they are up to it, most such ills are considerably alleviated. And by taking the time and effort to understand the Internet, they would then be able to steer their kids towards the more rewarding and less salacious pursuits that form 99.999% of the Internet’s purpose and content.

Back to the issue 3 contents page...

Back to the infoHIGHWAY home page...