Child Pornography: Internet sex offenders

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

Child pornography on the web is becoming increasingly harder to track down because of advances in technology and sex offenders’ increasing creativity at masking their true identity.

According to recent research – People who look at child pornography can be generally separated into 4 groups:

1. those who are solely curious or acting impulsively

2. Those who take part in a fantasy only pornography

3. Direct victimization where the offenders take part in online pornography as a prelude to both contact and non contact sexual offenses

4. Commercial exploitation offenders who make or sell photos to make money

Often offenders show abnormal functioning in the motivational/emotional areas of the brain. This can make them more likely to suffer from problematic mood states (like depression, anxiety, etc.).  They also have problems in selecting appropriate actions, especially when related to impulsive behaviors.

Regardless of the mood they are in many sexual compulsives find themselves getting lost in the internet and use it as a way of escaping from reality and finding pleasure. These escapes can last many hours (8-10 hours is not unusual in many cases). The internet also tends to bring out the impulsive behaviors in those especially that may already have impulse control issues. This is due to the anonymous nature of online interactions.

These are some common beliefs often shared by people within this group:

a. Children can be seen as and used as sexual beings because they enjoy it. Sex isn’t harmful to children.

c. The adult offender is more important and worthy of pleasure.

d. The world itself is dangerous and predatory behavior is natural.

e. The world is uncontrollable and their predatory behaviors are due to uncontrollable factors

There are some basic differences between offenders who stay online and those who engage in direct victimization. About 25% internet offenders suffered sexual abuse themselves as children whereas about 36% of contact offenders suffered sexual abuse and more often they suffered at a younger age.  Also, internet only offenders were more likely to have partaken in heterosexual play prior to puberty while contact offenders more often engaged in homosexual play. As usual, these difference are correlational and don’t necessarily indicate a causal relationship.


Elliot, Ian, Beech, Anthony. Understanding Online Child Pornography Use: Applying sexual offense theory to internet offenders. Aggression and Addiction. 14,3 May-June 2009 (180-193)