That personal computer your kid got for Christmas may be more educational than you think. Animated nudes, sexy bulletin boards and files filled with dirty jokes are now accessable to most PCs.
"If parents are going to have a child use a $1,000 computer, they have to know what it's being used for," said UCLA communications law professor Dan Brenner. "If parents let their children use a computer and modem without supervision, it's not a lot different from allowing them to watch cable TV or the VCR."
In recent years more sexually oriented materials have been showing up for home computers--some on floppy disks with X-rated artwork and games, and others accessed by phone lines from electronic bulletin boards.
From Jokes to Dates
Usually operated by computer aficionados out of their homes, the boards can provide off-color jokes, adult pictures, formats for trading sexual messages and dating services. All this, just by dialing up the right numbers.
Computers also are used by pedophiles, adults with a sexual interest in children, said Robert Showers, executive director of the Justice Department's national obscenity enforcement unit. "The computer was the one device that was coming up and they linked onto it," he said.
While declining to mention specific cases, Showers said pedophiles now use floppy disks and electronic bulletin boards to send messages and pictures with child pornography from computer to computer.
"You can actually reproduce a picture on the computer. You can produce the child pornography and send it from one computer terminal to the other," Showers said. "I think law enforcement is just beginning to get the intelligence information on the use of computers in child pornography."
Many computer porn materials do not exploit children, but bring content already available by telephone, magazines, movies or videos into the high-tech age.
"A lot of people meet each other through it," said Devin Woods, who runs the Affection Connection, a computer bulletin board in the San Fernando Valley. "I've got a long-distance love affair going between Chatsworth, Calif., and Melbourne, Fla., with two people who've never met each other."
Besides a message board where long-distance lovers can leave notes for each other, the Affection Connection offers games, computer utilities, listings of computer equipment for sale and sexually oriented pictures.
"Some (pictures) are X-rated and some are clean," Woods said. "I don't do that stuff. People send them to me."
The computer art is created by electronically scanning magazine photos and by generating original drawings, some of them animated. They are sent to computer bulletin boards via phone lines to be included for viewing and future use.
Adult materials carry warning messages and Woods said he phones potential users before allowing access to ensure that they are older than 18. Some bulletin boards offer a free look around the system to help computer buffs decide whether they want to pay the access charge.
In a random test for the Associated Press, the Adult Entertainment Directory of another Southern California bulletin board was accessed by simply dialing the board from a computer modem. No verification of age was required for a free look at the contents, although the directory carried an "Adults Only" warning.
The directory listed more than 50 features with names like "Cucumber," "F-Word," "Intersex," "Orgy," "Nudepics," "Porno," "Xpics" and "Slave." Other names are too graphic to mention.
Once a feature was chosen for the AP random test, nude stills, animated pictures of couples making love, files of crude jokes, adult games and a nude picture of an actress appeared on the computer screen. From there, they could be printed out on paper or moved to storage on floppy disks for future playback.
Computer pornography programs are also available from mail-order software outlets. Some outlets warn purchasers that they must be over 18 to order adult materials.
Comic Strip Sex
Pornographic software includes comic strip-type stories that start with a still drawing, then move to animated pictures of people having sex with animals or performing unusual sexual acts with each other.
Sextex is a New York-based electronic bulletin board system that a brochure says offers "Eroticomm party line," an "Open X-Change" for erotic stories, a Sexshop/Personals service to sell and swap merchandise and "X-mail to exchange lusty messages."
Computer pornography is so new that legal issues, such as how computer communication is covered by First Amendment protections of free speech and press, have yet to be resolved, legal experts say.
In November, President Reagan proposed legislation "making illegal the computerized network that child molesters and collectors of child pornography have developed."
Law Plays Catch-up
"Technology generally outstrips the law. When technology moves faster, the law tries to catch up with it," Showers said.