While the internet is an invaluable resource, more care needs be taken to ensure children are not exposed to pornographic sites, writes Vivian Warby.
The Department of Home Affairs earlier this month released the findings of a number of research reports undertaken by the Films and Publications Board.
One of which looked at internet usage and the exposure of pornographic content to learners in South African schools. It revealed that well over 50 percent of children with access to internet and cell phones with internet capabilities were being exposed to pornography.
Further to this, 64 percent of learners in schools have been exposed to pornographic content on the internet and as many as 81 percent reported knowledge of viewing pornographic images on the phones of their friends.
Of those who had encountered pornography on the internet, 70 percent reported coming across such materials accidentally and more than half exchanged addresses of pornographic websites with friends.
The research was conducted among learners aged between 13 and 17 in randomly selected schools in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba said the information will be used to provide an informed basis for the establishment and implementation of public policy initiatives and other measures to minimise children's exposure to such materials.
"It also intends to empower them with the necessary skills to cope with any distress that they might suffer from involuntary exposure to disturbing, harmful and objectionable materials both online and offline," said Mr Gigaba.
The information is to form the basis for discussions at the national two-day Indaba on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse and Child Exploitation through Combating Child Pornography, which kicks off on Sunday.
The indaba is being hosted by the department to mark International Children's Day on 1 June.
The theme for the event is: "Cyberwise: Creating a child safe Information Communication Technology environment".
In another report entitled "The Use of Children in Pornography in South Africa", a Human Sciences Research Council report, stated that the extent of children used for pornographic content was not known in South Africa.
Part of this reason for this was that sexual offence data in the country was not collected and combined.
In the past five years fewer than 20 cases of people possessing, manufacturing or distributing pornographic content have been investigated in South Africa.
However, every piece of child pornography indicates that a child had been abused.
"The full reality will never be known, given the clandestine nature of the crime," said the deputy minister.
However, there are millions of sexual abusive images containing children available on the World Wide Web.
The internet has made it much easier to distribute these images for "communities" of users to form. - BuaNews