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National Research Council, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Youth, Pornography, and the Internet (Dick Thornburgh & Herbert S. Lin eds. 2002) (full-text).


The report, also referred to as the "Thornburgh Report," examined the issue of children's exposure to sexually explicit material online from multiple perspectives and reviewed a number of approaches to protecting children from encountering such material.

This report surveyed the technical, legal, law enforcement, educational, and economic dimensions of the problem of coping with materials and experiences on the Internet that are inappropriate for children. In addition, it describes a range of social and educational strategies, technology-based tools, and legal and regulatory approaches that could help children to use the Internet more safely.

This study did not make recommendations about what communities should do about the problem. Although this study explicated the factors that could enter into choices about appropriate approaches to protecting kids from inappropriate sexually explicit material on the Internet, the choice of any particular approach implied a particular weighting of various factors, and hence embedded a particular value choice, which the committee was not charged to make. Rather, the study emphasized the information needed to conduct a reasoned discussion among those seeking to decide what to do.

The report concluded that

developing in children and youth an ethic of responsible choice and skills for appropriate behavior is foundational for all efforts to protect them — with respect to inappropriate sexually explicit material on the Internet as well as many other dangers on the Internet and in the physical world. Social and educational strategies are central to such development, but technology and public policy are important as well — and the three can act together to reinforce each other's value.

The report encapsulated this finding into the oft-quoted and succinct "swimming pool analogy," acknowledging the protective value of fences around pools while asserting that such "technology" could never replace the life-long protection of teaching kids how to swim.