Child pornography refers to images or films depicting sexually explicit activities involving a child; as such, child pornography is a visual record of child sexual abuse.
Abuse of the child occurs during the sexual acts which are photographed in the production of child pornography, and the effects of the abuse on the child (and continuing into maturity) are compounded by the wide distribution and lasting availability of the photographs of the abuse. In both common usage and for research purposes, the word “child” in the phrase “child pornography” refers to prepubescent children, and does not refer to post-puberty teenagers. However, legal definitions of child pornography generally refer to a wider range of material, including any pornography involving a minor, or in some cases non-abusive acts involving participants over the age of consent, or fictional images, according to jurisdiction.
Most possessors of child pornography who are arrested are found to possess images of prepubescent children; possessors of pornographic images of post-puberty minors are less likely to be prosecuted, even though those images also fall within the statutes.
Child pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry and among the fastest growing criminal segments on the Internet, according to the USA The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) and other international sources. New technology such as inexpensive digital cameras and Internet distribution has made it easier than ever before to produce and distribute child pornography.
The producers of child pornography try to avoid prosecution by distributing their material across national borders, though this issue is increasingly being addressed with regular arrests of suspects from a number of countries occurring over the last few years.
Child pornography is viewed and collected by paedophiles for a variety of purposes, ranging from private sexual uses, trading with other paedophiles, preparing children for sexual abuse as part of the process known as “child grooming”, or enticement leading to entrapment for sexual exploitation such as production of new child pornography or child prostitution.