Dangers of social media exposed

2015-10-07 06:00
Photo: supplied
Researcher at the University of the Free State, Dr Monique Emser.

Photo: supplied Researcher at the University of the Free State, Dr Monique Emser.

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A PERSON’S social interaction is increasingly taking place online in the form of social media. In the online world, social networking sites have become a predominant forum for children to present themselves, seek approval and describe their interests.

“This presents a real challenge to parents who realise their children often know more than they do. We need to tackle the problem and know what our children are doing online,” said Dr Monique Emser, a researcher at the University of the Free State, when addressing parents and teachers at Kingsway High School last week regarding the dangers of social media

“One of the risks that children face when engaging with the mass media and using electronic tools is that they may intentionally seek or unintentionally be exposed to sexually explicit material. This material may be illegal or may be legal for adults only­,” she added.

A recent report by a Canadian-based organisation­, Kinsa, exposed a number of African countries that use peer-to-peer technology to trade images of pubescent children being sexually assaulted.

“The type of assault was categorised by police globally. The report revealed that 137 373 child abuse images were being traded­ in South Africa, involving 7 802 IP addresses,” said Emser.

The average age of exposure to pornography is 11. “The Human Science and Research Council found that the internet and cellphones can, and are, being used to “groom” children. Groomers develop online relationships with children, even posing as a child to obtain images from the child. “Many children are lured into exchanging explicit pictures of themselves in exchange for airtime, money and material possessions or, in some cases, for drugs and alcohol,” she said.

Another risk teens are exposed to on social media is “sexting”, where cellphone users create and exchange provocative and nude sexual images of themselves using their cellphone camera.

The expert said South Africa clearly lacks a proactive approach to preventative measures. She highlighted five ways for parents to keep their children safe online. Read the tips on our Facebook page.

When faced with any of the dangers on the internet, immediately contact 1011 or Crime Stop on 086 00 1011 to inform the police. Visit sites likehttp://www.internetmatters.org for further information.

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