Americans Are Acutely Unaware of the Prevalence of Child Sex Exploitation Online, New Study Finds

There Were 70 Million Images and Videos of Child Pornography Reported to Authorities Last Year – A Major Crisis, Given Increased Time Children Now Spend Online Due to COVID, According to Report by The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty To Children

NEW YORK, Dec. 10, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- When informed how rampant online sexual exploitation of children has become, most Americans expressed surprise, which indicates youngsters may not be adequately protected as they double-down on screen time during pandemic virtual school and stay-at-home periods, according to a new survey and report by The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC).

With information that 70 million online images and videos of child pornography were reported to law enforcement in 2019 alone, 62% of Americans said that was “far more than expected,” and 66% said they didn’t know this was a serious, growing problem. Those are among the findings of a new, national survey of 1,000 Americans age 18 and older by The NYSPCC, the U.S.’s first child protection agency.

“The explosion of children being used for internet child pornography, which includes rape and severe abuse, is horrific – and happening daily beneath the radar of public consciousness,” said Mary L. Pulido, PhD., Executive Director of The NYSPCC. “The problem and the human damage are compounded by the fact that so many more children from all walks of life are spending, and being encouraged to spend, more unsupervised time online because of extraordinary circumstances brought on by the new coronavirus pandemic.”

“It’s critical to understand that the risk isn’t just that children witness the sex abuse – it’s that they become victims. They are lured and tricked online to perform and share sex acts using the cameras in their phones and other devices, and also coerced to meet up in person with abusers and pornographers. The range of scenarios seems endless,” she added.

The NYSPCC undertook the research to highlight the gap between awareness of the problem and its prevalence – so that policymakers, technology companies, public health organizations, schools and, of course, individuals and families can be motivated to take action.

“Thankfully, the situation is getting more exposure. But it needs to seep in more – and quickly,” Dr. Pulido said. She cited recent coverage of horrific content involving girls on the popular site Pornhub, which gets 3.5 billion visits per month.

The NYSPCC research reveals other dimensions of Americans’ awareness of and views on online child pornography:

  • Only 34% of the public report they have heard about the dramatic increase in the past year of child pornography over the internet.
  • Those who are most aware of the increase in online child pornography are between 18 and 29 (45%), have some college education (41%), are parents of children under 13 (41%) and women (39%).
  • The vast majority of Americans (nearly 90%) said they consider encouraging children to create sexual images of themselves and rewarding them for sexual activity, as well as possessing and viewing sexual images of children, to be forms of sexual exploitation.
  • A big majority of Americans (78%) said they believe creators and viewers of child pornography are equally responsible for the exploitation.
  • The majority of Americans (81%) said if they suspected someone were sexually exploiting a child, they would report the person to enforcement authorities.
  • But only 62% said they’d report the perpetrator if they were a family member of close friend.
  • 72% said they’d favor requiring internet technology companies to actively search for child pornography rather than simply requiring them to report it when it is brought to their attention (the current requirement).

“While there is clearly concurrence among Americans that online child pornography constitutes serious exploitation and that the responsibility lies with creators and users, effectively addressing the problem will require that we create much more awareness; generate greater willingness to report it; and encourage, or legislate, more accountability and proactivity on the part of technology companies whose platform are used,” Dr. Pulido said.

To obtain the full set of findings of the survey, which also covered views on use of software to curb online exploitation of children and legislative accountability, please contact

Survey Methodology
The results reported here are based on completed interviews with a national probability sample of 1,000 Americans, age 18 and older. The research was designed for The NYSPCC by Michaels Opinion Research, Inc. and utilized the AmeriSpeak panel. Funded and operated by NORC at the University of Chicago, AmeriSpeak is a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population. The mixed-mode panel (online and telephone) provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the U.S. household population. Data have been weighted to national U.S. Census benchmarks and are balanced by gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, and region. The survey was fielded August 17-20, 2020 and the tabulated results have a margin of error of ±4.3 percentage-points.

The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) is one of the most highly respected child protective agencies in the world. Founded in 1875, The NYSPCC helps the most vulnerable children of New York City recover from trauma due to child abuse and neglect. And, more importantly, it helps prevent child abuse through its work with parents, teachers, children and foster care agencies. The NYSPCC’s amazing work is used as a model for child welfare agencies across the nation. The NYSPCC has investigated more than 650,000 cases on behalf of over two million children and has educated over 53,000 professionals working with children on child abuse and neglect issues. Read more about The NYSPCC at

Media Contacts:
Erin Freilich on behalf of The NYSPCC |