The amount of information available on the Internet via the World Wide Web is unprecedented in human history. More than 100 million public websites host as many as 100 billion individual documents, a significant percentage of which is pornographic. Although it’s difficult to arrive at concrete numbers given the dynamic nature of the web, some studies suggest that nearly half of all Internet users view pornography online and that 35% of all Internet downloads involve pornography.1
President Gordon B. Hinckley referred to the spread of pornography by saying, “While the matter of which I speak was a problem [some years ago], it is a much more serious problem now. It grows increasingly worse.”2 It is estimated that in 1970 the hard-core pornography industry generated “no more than $10 million, and perhaps less than $5 million.”3 By 1985, that figure had risen to $10 billion nationwide.4 Today pornography brings in $97 billion per year globally.5 These figures are for the coarsest material produced. When we include “soft-core” pornography and other salacious material, the numbers are staggering.
President Hinckley cited statistics on pornography in the 2004 October General Conference:
I recently read that pornography has become a $57 billion industry worldwide. Twelve billion of this is derived in the United States by evil and “conspiring men”6 who seek riches at the expense of the gullible. It is reported that it produces more revenue in the United States than the “combined revenues of all professional football, baseball and basketball franchises or the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC.”
It robs the workplace of the time and talents of employees. “20% of men admit accessing pornography at work. 13% of women [do so]. … 10% of adults admit having internet sexual addiction.” That is their admission, but actually the number may be much higher.
The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families states that “approximately 40 million people in the United States are sexually involved with the Internet. … One in five children ages 10–17 [has] received a sexual solicitation over the Internet. … Three million of the visitors to adult websites in September 2000 were age 17 or younger. … Sex is the number 1 topic searched on the Internet.”7
President Hinckley made these remarks in 2004. The growth trend has not abated since then.
Research suggests that approximately 90% of all children in the United States between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the web, most while doing homework.8 The average age of first exposure to online pornography has been moving downward over the years, and is now around 11 years old.9 The reality for parents in this generation is that very few of you saw as a child what most of your children have already seen. For that matter, many of you have never seen as an adult what some of your children have already seen.
While the majority of pornography is targeted toward men and boys, females make up an increasingly significant percentage of viewership—a little more than one-third of all hits to pornographic sites are from women and girls.
The problem of pornography has become pervasive. Studies estimate that 25% of all search engine requests are pornographic in nature, and that 8% of all emails and 12% of all websites contain pornographic content.10 While 79% of parents report having some form of parental controls or rules regarding their child’s Internet use, approximately one in five children have no guidance whatsoever.11
As President Gordon B. Hinckley aptly described pornography, “It is like a raging storm, destroying individuals and families, utterly ruining what was once wholesome and beautiful.”12
Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “Pornography … inflicts mortal wounds on our most precious personal relationships. … President Hinckley quoted the letter of a woman who asked him to warn Church members that pornography ‘has the effect of damaging hearts and souls to their very depths, strangling the life out of relationships.'”13