The most common way for individuals to access the Internet is via browsing or surfing the World Wide Web. The application used to browse the web is called a browser or web browser. The most popular web browsers are Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari. The process of clicking on link after link, moving from page to page, is called web surfing.
Since a significant portion of the websites in the world are pornographic, aimless web surfing is generally much more dangerous than, say, aimless channel surfing on a television set (and you already know how problematic that can be!). When accessing the web, it is generally much safer to do so deliberately, with a specific purpose, rather than simply to kill time or because you’re bored.
When we talk about accessing inappropriate material on the web, it’s helpful to differentiate between deliberate and non-deliberate access.
Deliberate access involves an individual specifically seeking out inappropriate content. This could involve typing in specific web addresses known to carry pornographic material, or using a search engine (such as Google) to look for specific terms that the user knows will bring up pornographic material in the search results.
Non-deliberate access involves a user doing something entirely innocent and accidentally stumbling upon inappropriate material online. In some cases, malicious software can be loaded on a computer, causing pornographic material to pop-up in windows. Please note that professional computer forensics experts can generally determine whether a computer system was infected with pornographic adware or malware and whether the presence of inappropriate content on a computer is the result of accidental vs. deliberate access.22
The most pernicious side effect of non-deliberate access is that the highly addictive nature of the material has an effect on the viewer, even if access wasn’t deliberate and the duration of exposure to the images was very short. Pornographers understand this fact, which is why they go to the effort to put such material in front of individuals who aren’t seeking it. Having been exposed, deliberately or not, it’s more likely that an individual will subsequently seek such material intentionally.
Between deliberate and non-deliberate access exists a gray zone that I call “dancing around the edge hoping to slip.” This involves individuals who know better, who have made a commitment to not deliberately access inappropriate material, but who lack the willpower or the commitment to avoid the issue entirely. So they search for things that are not patently inappropriate, but which they strongly suspect may serve up pornographic results. Such rationalization creates for them an opportunity to access small doses of pornography while convincing themselves that it isn’t really their fault. A full commitment to avoiding pornographic material must include a strong commitment to never dance around the edges, innocently or otherwise.
Internet Safety Podcast Episode 5: Safe and Responsible Surfing