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.
Almost a quarter (22.8 percent) were asked online to perform sexual acts, according to the Youth Research Unit (YRU) of the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) at the University of SA.
"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 YRU surveyed 1500 secondary school pupils in Gauteng.
The study focused on the online behaviour and risks pupils were exposed to when using the internet and social networking sites.
The study highlighted that 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.
The survey revealed that 24.4 percent of pupils were persuaded to perform sexual acts.
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.
According to the survey, 18.8 percent of the pupils had conducted sexual acts via webcam.
The survey showed that 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.
Similarly, 43 percent of pupils reported to have accidentally come across websites with sexually explicit material.
YRU researcher Goodness Zulu said it was concerning that 29.2 percent of pupils intentionally accessed pornographic material.
Of the pupils surveyed, 77.6 percent accessed pornographic sites occasionally and 9.1 percent daily.