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Internet pornography by the numbers; a significant threat to society

News media organizations often treat specific internet safety issues as fads – after being THE hot topic, issues fall out of favor becoming “old news” in spite of ongoing risks and threats. We’ve seen this with pornography, child predators, chat room risks, meeting strangers and, more recently, sexting. Today’s hot topic is cyberbullying, but given the nature of our media cycles, we should expect to see this join the ranks of “old news” by the end of the year. That isn’t to say these topics aren’t ongoing threats, just that they lose media attention.

Internet pornography was the first big internet safety topic to make news, and it has remained largely out of favor among the popular press ever since. But that doesn’t mean the issues and costs have vanished, or that “it’s just an issue among right-wing prudes.”

The societal costs of pornography are staggering. The financial cost to business productivity in the U.S. alone is estimated at $16.9 Billion annually ; but the human toll, particularly among our youth and in our families, is far greater.

According to Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D, psychologist and former Deputy Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary, “two recent reports, one by the American Psychological Association on hyper-sexualized girls, and the other by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy on the pornographic content of phone texting among teenagers, make clear that the digital revolution is being used by younger and younger children to dismantle the barriers that channel sexuality into family lifeii.

Pornography hurts adults, children, couples, families, and society. Among adolescents, pornography hinders the development of a healthy sexuality, and among adults, it distorts sexual attitudes and social realities. In families, pornography use leads to marital dissatisfaction, infidelity, separation, and divorce.”

Here are some of the most credible statistics available today on internet pornography. Note: at the end of this article there are links to three infographics that cover various aspects of the impact of pornography on families.

General pornography stats

Youth pornography stats

Family/Marital pornography stats

Additional resources:

Video Resources:

iIn February 2010, the number of people using a work computer to visit sexually oriented website was as high as 28%, according to research conducted by The Nielsen Company. The average visit to a pornography site from a work computer was about 13 minutes, and the average worker spent one hour and 38 minutes on such sites during that month.

If we leverage data extracted on: March 30, 2012, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics we can use their average hourly earnings of $23.23 multiplied by 1hr.38min = a loss of ~$38/month per employee watching pornography at work. Multiplying the monthly total by 12 months shows a loss of $456 dollars each year from every employee that views pornography

The number of U.S. employees reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as of March 30th, 2012 was 132 million. If we divide this to represent 28% of employees using a work computer to visit pornographic sites up to ~37million employees viewing pornography. (There are many ways to pare down this number, for example by excluding some labor categories, but for the sake of the exercise we’re keeping it simple).

Thus, if 37 million employees are viewing the average amount of pornography cited by the Nielsen Company, the annual productivity loss to companies is a staggering $16.9 Billion dollars.