What is Child Porn? Explain Like I’m 5

by Chris Von Wilpert, BBusMan • Last updated December 5, 2023

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What is child pornography?

Child pornography are images, pictures and videos that show the private parts of children. Making, watching, sharing and downloading child pornography can be forbidden in the country you live in.

Child pornography fast facts

  • Child pornography is not forbidden in every country.

  • In the US, you can be punished for making, watching, sharing and having porn with real children. 

  • In many countries, 18 is the age that someone is no longer considered a kid.

  • If you come across child pornography, you can report it.

  • In some countries, dirty drawings of children are also child pornography.

Manga drawings of young girls in erotic clothes are called lolicons and are in some countries considered as a form of child pornography. Photograph: Kasuga~enwiki via Wikimedia

Are all pictures and videos of naked children pornography?

No. It‘s child pornography in two situations. First, if people make these pictures or videos to get excited about the naked bodies of children. Second, if people look at images and videos of naked children to get excited, even if these were not meant to be pornographic. 

For example, parents can take pictures or make movies of their children to keep memories for later. Taking a bath, swimming or playing naked in the garden on a hot summer day are not child pornography. 

Also, pictures of naked or lightly dressed children taken in a hospital, or for a newspaper, or to create art are not child pornography. But again, some people may get excited about them.

Not all pictures of naked children are pornography. This image, for example, was taken in 1972 after a napalm attack in South Vietnam. Photograph: Nick Ut via Associated Press

Is the internet the only place that has child pornography?

No, the internet is not the only place where one can come across child pornography. It can also, for example, be drawings, printed pictures, books, and DVDs.

But the internet is the place where people can easily search, watch and share images and videos. That is why it is, by far, the most popular place for child pornography. 

In many countries, however, it’s forbidden and sites with child pornography can be punished or even taken down.

Is child pornography forbidden in all countries?

No. In Somalia, the Central African Republic and Dominica, for example, there are no laws that forbid child pornography.

In some countries, such as the UK, Switzerland, Greece and Kenya it is completely forbidden. You cannot make it or watch it even if the children are animated.

There are also countries where it is not completely forbidden. In the US, for instance, it is illegal when there are real children involved, but some types of drawings are allowed.

What does production, distribution, consumption and possession of child pornography mean?

As with any other video or image, child pornography is created. We call that “production” and it can happen in many ways. Someone can, for instance, take a picture, shoot a movie, or use a computer program to make a cartoon of naked children. 

Once the pornography is ready, people can share it with others. We call this distribution and examples are: uploading it to a website, sending it with an email, sharing it with an app, and so on.

Watching child pornography is called consumption. This can happen by accident, but also on purpose. Finally, possession means that somebody has a copy of the file on his computer, or phone. It can also be stored on a hard drive, or printed out.

What can you do when you find child pornography on the internet?

When you find child pornography, the best you can do is to tell this to somebody. We call this “report officially” and there are several people and organizations that can do something about it.

  • Pornographic websites usually have buttons that you can click to report forbidden content such as child porn, so that the website can then delete the content.
  • In the USA, you can best contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). Other countries also have organizations that can help you.
  • If you find child pornography in Google or Bing, you can fill in a form. The search engines can then hide it so that nobody else can find it.

On adult sites, you can easily flag a movie if you believe it is, for instance, child pornography. Photograph: PornHub

What are the punishments for child pornography?

The punishment for child pornography depends on many things, such as: 

  • The laws that can differ per country, or state. 
  • A punishment for the first time somebody gets caught can be less strict than if this person does it again.
  • There can be different punishments for making, sharing, watching and having child pornography.
  • Sometimes, the punishment sometimes is a fine, sometimes it is jail time. In France, for instance, you can go to prison for five years, and up to 10 years in Germany.

From what age can someone play in a porn movie?

The legal porn age is usually 18 years, but there are countries and states where you have to be 21 years old. In countries outside the USA and Europe, the age can be lower. In Botswana, for instance, the cut is 14 years old. We call anyone who is not old enough for pornography “underage children”. 

Age is something you cannot change, but still, it is not always clear. Some people can, for instance, look much younger than they actually are. 

Finally, children that are not real, but drawn, do not have a real age. Still, these drawings can sometimes be child pornography. In some situations and countries, someone can be punished for making or having these kinds of drawings.

In many countries, people can play in porn movies when they are at least 18 years old. Photograph: TeamSkeet

How can you prevent kids from watching online child pornography?

It is forbidden for underage children to watch any form of pornography, whether it is with children or not. Here are some things you can do so they cannot search it, or watch it accidentally online:

  • Computers, tablets and phones have settings that can block certain content for underage children. For Windows computers, for instance, there is a Microsoft Family Safety site. For Apple devices, the Families site explains how to make devices child friendly.
  • There are apps that can block specific websites.
  • Google SafeSearch is a simple setting that hides results that are for adults.
  • You can check the search history of the devices children use.
  • Some programs can automatically block sites that are for adults only.

Is pornography with teenagers forbidden?

Sometimes. There are two things that are important: their age and if they consent.

In many countries, a teenager must be at least 18 years old to have sex. From that moment on, these teenagers can play in pornographic movies or have dirty pictures taken. That is why 18 is also often called the “legal age”, although it can be 21 in some places. 

The second thing is that they also have to agree with producing and sharing their pornographic content. If that is not the case, it is forbidden.

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