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.

What Are The Costs of Internet Pornography?

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.” In fact, there's significant research emanating from academic circles which suggests that online pornography is not without significant social and economic costs.

The Costs of Pornography in Society

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 life. ii

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.”

The Costs of Pornography in the Workplace

In February 2010, the number of people using a work computer to visit sexually oriented websites 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. During the month, the average worker was estimated to spend one hour and 38 minutes on such sites. 

If we leverage data extracted on March 30, 2012 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which calculates average hourly earnings at $23.23, and we multiply by one hour and 38 minutes, we’d see a loss of roughly $38/month per employee due to pornography usage in the workplace. Multiply that by 12 months and a yearly loss of $456 coming from every employee that views pornography can be estimated.

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 by the 28% of employees who use a work computer to visit pornographic sites, up to 37 million employees view pornography in the workplace. (Note: 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.

Internet Pornography Statistics in the United States

Here are some of the most credible statistics available today on internet pornography. 

How Much Porn is Accessible Online?  

The amount of pornographic material available on the web is staggering. As introductory economics, search engines, and other online data repositories tell us, the market for such material is just as large. 

Every Second:

  • 28,258 users are watching pornography on the internet.

  • $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography on the internet.

  • 372 people are typing the word "adult" into a search engine.

Every Day:

  • 37 pornographic videos are created in the United States.
  • 2.5 billion emails containing porn are sent or received.
  • 68 million search queries related to pornography- 25% of total searches- are generated. 
  • 116,000 queries related to child pornography are received.

How Online Pornography Affects Americans

  • About 200,000 Americans are classified as “porn addicts.”
  • 40 million American people regularly visit porn sites.
  • 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography.
  • 34% of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to pornographic content through ads, pop up ads, misdirected links or emails.
  • One-third of porn viewers are women.

By focusing on the data behind the creation and consumption of pornographic content, the dangers facing people can be easily overlooked. The sheer magnitude of available online pornography is merely one aspect of a larger issue that plagues society.

How Internet Pornography Usage Hurts Teens 

One area of study considered important among development experts is the effect of pornography on teens and young adults.

  • It increases the odds of teenage pregnancy. Teenagers with frequent exposure to sexual content on TV have a substantially greater likelihood of teenage pregnancy, and the likelihood of teen pregnancy was twice as high doubles when the quantity of sexual content exposure within the viewing episodes was high.viii

  • It hinders sexual development. Pornography viewing by teens disorients them during the developmental phase when they have to learn how to handle their sexuality and when they are most vulnerable to uncertainty about their sexual beliefs and moral values.ix Blocking internet-connected devices from accessing adult material is a good start in keeping pornography out of reach for teens. 

  • It raises the risk of depression. A significant relationship also exists among teens between frequent pornography use and feelings of loneliness, including major depression.x

  • It creates distorted expectations which hinder healthy sexual development. Adolescents exposed to high levels of pornography have lower levels of sexual self-esteem.xi Keeping the conversation going with your child about the effects of pornography is essential to heading off issues like depression and low self-esteem.

Family/Marital Pornography Stats

The negative effects of pornography do not end after development. They can be just as harmful to families and marriages.

  • According to National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, 2010, 47% of families in the United States reported that pornography is a problem in their home.xii

  • Pornography use increases the marital infidelity rate by more than 300%.xiii

  • 40 percent of people identified as “sex addicts” lose their spouses, 58 percent suffer considerable financial losses, and about 33% lose their jobs.xiv

  • 68% of divorce cases involve one party meeting a new paramour over the internet while 56% involve one party having an “obsessive interest” in pornographic websites.xv

The internet and the interconnectedness it offers society are beneficial in so many ways. Unfortunately, as a cybersecurity company, we know all too well about the drawbacks associated with the internet. We're here to help by facilitating conversation on online safety with the resources below, and by providing you with the home internet security tools to ensure malicious actors aren't able to seek you out online.

Additional Resources:

Video Resources:


  • iihttp://ncfamily.org/pdffiles/The_Effects_of_Pornography.pdf
  • iiihttp://www.cnbc.com/id/31586577/?slide=2
  • ivhttp://www.cnbc.com/id/31586577/?slide=2
  • vhttp://www.cnbc.com/id/31586577/?slide=2
  • vihttp://www.cnbc.com/id/31586577/?slide=2
  • viihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_pornography_statistics#cite_note-Internet_Pornography_Statistics_-_Internet_Filter_Review-3
  • viiiAnita Chandra, Steven C. Martino, Rebecca L. Collins, Marc N. Elliott, Sandra H. Berry, David E. Kanouse, and Angela Miu, “Does Watching Sex on Television Predict Teen Pregnancy? Findings from a Longitudinal Survey of Youth,” Pediatrics 122 (2008): 1047-1054 (1052).
  • ixJochen Peter and Patti M. Valkenburg, “Adolescents’ Exposure to Sexually Explicit Internet Material, Sexual Uncertainty, and Attitudes Toward Uncommitted Sexual Exploration: Is There a Link?” Communication Research 35 (2008): 579-601 (581
  • xMichele L. Ybarra and Kimberly J. Mitchell, “Exposure to Internet Pornography among Children and Adolescents: A National Survey,” CyberPsychology & Behavior 8 (2005): 473-86 (479). 10 Vincent Cyrus Yoder, Thomas B.Virden III, and Kiran Amin “Internet pornography and Loneliness: An Association?” Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity 12 (2005): 19-44 (30). This was a study of 400 individual Internet pornography users.
  • xiTodd G. Morrison, Shannon R. Ellis, Melanie A. Morrison, Anomi Bearden, and Rebecca L. Harriman, “Exposure to Sexually Explicit Material and Variations in Body Esteem, Genital Attitudes, and Sexual Esteem Among a Sample of Canadian Men,” The Journal of Men’s Studies 14 (2006): 209-22 (216-7).
  • xiihttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_pornography_statistics#cite_note-Internet_Usage_bsecure-4
  • xiiiSteven Stack, Ira Wasserman, and Roger Kern, “Adult Social Bonds and Use of Internet Pornography,” Social Science Quarterly 85 (2004): 75-88.
  • iiMary Anne Layden, Ph.D. (Center for Cognitive Therapy, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania), Testimony for U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, November 18, 2004, 2.
  • ii“The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family, and Community,” by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D., psychologist, and former Deputy Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary.

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