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What is child pornography and how can I protect my children?

By Jenifer McKim
Globe Staff / July 29, 2012
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What constitutes child pornography?

It’s defined under federal law as any sexual explicit visual depiction of a minor, including a photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image.

Is simply looking at child

pornography against the law?

In most cases, yes. It’s a federal crime to knowingly possess, manufacture, distribute, or access with intent to view child pornography. Penalties range from probation to 30 years in prison, with the possibility of added time for sending images electronically or depicting prepubescent children. All 50 states and the District of Columbia also have laws against child pornography.

Where is child pornography mostly found?

Largely, it involves digital pictures and videos that are viewed and exchanged through online chatrooms, instant messaging, websites, and peer-to-peer networks, often using technology that makes the viewers and senders anonymous.

Who produces such pictures and


More than half of child victims are abused by someone who has legitimate access to them — including parents, relatives, family friends, baby-sitters, and coaches. Studies have shown that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood.

How do I protect my child from

becoming a victim?

It’s important to realize that people close to your children can be a greater threat than strangers. Follow your instincts — if someone who has access to your children makes you uncomfortable, end that relationship. Also, tell your children to never allow anyone to touch them in a way that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused.

What are some signs of abuse?

Children may not want to talk about an incident, or won’t be able to articulate what happened, so it’s not as simple as asking them if anything is wrong. Monitor their body language and behavior. For instance, if your child doesn’t want to visit a particular adult, there may be a serious reason for the resistance.

Others signs include extreme mood swings, withdrawal, fearfulness, excessive crying, bed-wetting, nightmares, and acting out sexual activity. Physical indicators can include genital or anal pain, itching, and rawness.

Michelle Collins, with the Virginia-based National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, says children who know their images have been disseminated online can suffer from extreme paranoia. “It is really important they receive professional help,” she says.

Where can I get more information?

Visit the National Center for Missing

& Exploited Children at

www.missing­, Stop it Now! at www­, or US Immigration and Customs Enforcement at

SOURCES: US attorney’s office in Boston, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and Stop it Now!

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