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Double-take on Net pornography study


A two-year-old study on teens' exposure to online pornography went far and wide in the news Monday--much further than last summer, when the study's findings were first announced by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center.

Why? Technically, it's because the journal Pediatrics was just catching up with the UNH study and published an article in its February 2007 issue that sparked new interest from the media, including Time, CNN and Fortune. (CNET even posted a Reuters piece on the study.) But it seems more likely that the media ran with the story because the dangers of kids, pornography and the Internet are too sensational to pass up, even if the announcement is old.

What does the study say? Four out of 10 teens, between the ages of 10 to 17, had been exposed to online porn at some point over the period of a year. (UNH conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 1500 teens between March and June 2005.) Of those surveyed, 66 percent said it was unwanted exposure. Those figures were up from 25 percent of teens exposed to adult material online in 1999, the last time UNH conducted its study.

That said, it would be interesting to see more current data.

So what is news today?

First, in the irony department, U.S. parents are more worried about the effect of the media on their kids than they are about sex or alcohol abuse, according to a study released Monday by media watchdog Common Sense Media.

Second, in announcing his budget plan, President Bush granted the Justice Department more than $25 million in program increases--up from $93.7 million last year--for investigations involving child pornography and obscenity, particularly tracking convicted sex offenders and apprehending "online child pornographers and molesters."

That's good news.

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