About 31.4 percent of secondary school children surveyed in Gauteng have encountered people who tried to get them to talk online about sex against their will, according to a study released on Tuesday. In addition, some children had been asked to perform sexual acts and others had experienced sexual grooming.
Sex, grooming and porn
A survey conducted by the Youth Research Unit (YRU) of the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) at the University of SA revealed the following:
• Almost a quarter (22.8 percent) was asked online to perform sexual acts.
• 24.4 percent of pupils were persuaded to perform sexual acts.
• 97.7 percent of the pupils who participated in the study had access to the internet, while 95.7 percent were registered on various social networking sites.
• A total 13.3 percent eventually performed sexual acts against their will. Of that 48.2 percent entered into open sex talk and 59.6 percent took and sent pictures of themselves naked or semi-naked.
• 18.8 percent of the pupils had conducted sexual acts via webcam.
• 31.8 percent who experienced online sexual grooming reported the incident.
• Almost four in every 10 pupils (41.9 percent) opened an unfamiliar message or website link containing pictures of naked people or people having sex.
• 43 percent of pupils reported to have accidentally come across websites with sexually explicit material.
• 29.2 percent of pupils intentionally accessed pornographic material.
• 77.6 percent accessed pornographic sites occasionally and 9.1 percent daily.
1500 secondary school pupils in Gauteng participated in the survey.
"According to Prof Deon Tustin, online sexual grooming of children should be viewed as a distinct phenomenon impacting negatively on the day-to-day functioning of young people, families and communities," it said in the study.
"Tustin further points out that the intensity of the sexual grooming process results in some child victims being persuaded to perform sexual acts against their will."
The study focused on the risks school children were exposed to when using the internet and social networking sites.
The results of the survey will be distressing to parents wishing to safeguard their children in an environment where the parents may not always be aware of the child’s activities.
Despite safety precautions such as software which limits access to certain places on the internet, kids may easily bypass these on mobile devices.
Of course, these stats also highlight the need that exists for parents to have open discussions about sex with their kids, even if the topic isn’t easy to discuss.
To help protect their kids against sex pests and harmful activity online, parents can:
• Limit time spent on devices which can access the internet.
• Ask for your child’s passwords and regularly check the history on the devices.
• Talk about the risks involved in online activity, especially sharing content of a sexually explicit nature.
• Sharing of sexually explicit content such as images or video could lead to the child being arrested for the distribution of child pornography as well as the danger that the content could end up elsewhere on the internet for years to come.
• Speak to your kids about sex and responsibility, both online and offline.
• Make sure the security settings on your family’s devices protects them from sexual predators.
• Set rules about online activity and get your kids to agree with them, including making sure that they speak to you should they encounter something offensive, pornographic or bullying in nature.
In the digital age it may not be realistic to expect your children to lead offline lives, but teaching them healthy online behaviour will enable them to have a more mature approach to life, sexuality and self-worth.
Has your child encountered offensive material online?