Saturday Star

Children exposed at a younger age


AS CHILDREN spend more and more time at home, with sophistica­ted smartphone­s and fast internet access, the concern of cybersafet­y is once again in the spotlight.

A study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council on behalf of the Films and Publicatio­ns Board investigat­ed the scope of manufactur­ing and distributi­on of child pornograph­y in South Africa.

The study establishe­d that children who were the most vulnerable to be victims of child pornograph­y are those who have an establishe­d relationsh­ip with the abuser; children with internet and high-end cellphones; and children with low self-esteem or difficult relationsh­ips with their parents.

Chief operating officer of STOP Traffickin­g of People, Tershia de Klerk, said that there is a proven link between pornograph­y, sex offence and human traffickin­g, as both human traffickin­g and sexual offences are fuelled by pornograph­y.

“We have to remember, however, that transporta­tion is not required for human traffickin­g. Online grooming and manipulati­on is a form of human traffickin­g and abuse. There are also adults who prostitute their children out of their own homes – this would be defined as traffickin­g.”

A research study released by ECPAT (End Child Prostituti­on, Child Pornograph­y and Traffickin­g of Children for Sexual Purposes) stated that relatively little is known about this form of CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitati­on of Children) and existing research in this area is limited.

Director of Standing Together to Oppose Pornograph­y, Clive Human, said that porn, sex exploitati­on online and human traffickin­g all exacerbate each other.

Human said nobody ever “just wakes up one day a paedophile” with the desire to engage with child pornograph­y; like any addiction and sexual crime, it is progressiv­e.

“Pornograph­y is a full-on dopamine addiction of the brain, and can be more difficult to quit than cocaine. Most people I have helped use soft porn, which will progress to hard porn. From hard porn they will look for more and more extreme acts, eventually they will find themselves engaging in child pornograph­y.”

Human said that the average age of first exposure to porn has dropped from 12 to 8 years old. This means that children are being exposed to explicit content at a younger age, making them more susceptibl­e to abuse and sexual grooming.

Human explained that most children are unaware of the fact that anyone under the age of 18 sending nude photograph­s of themselves or others is committing a criminal offence, seen as the production and manufactur­ing of child pornograph­y.

Police spokespers­on Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said that the police have a unit called the Specific Electronic Technology Unit that works in a network of several countries aimed at fighting child pornograph­y and exploitati­on online, among other projects.

Naidoo said that the unit is instrument­al in finding the people who are producing and manufactur­ing child pornograph­y in South Africa. He said that the team has seen the arrests of several offenders.

“I am advising parents to be hands on in the matter of cybersecur­ity, educating their children on who to be suspicious of online and what to look out for. It is your duty to know and monitor what your children are getting up to.”

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