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Be aware of online child grooming

With the advent of social media and the internet, the number of platforms available to sexual predators has also increased.

“As a result, stranger danger is as much a threat to children in the online space as it is in real life,” said Film and Publication Board (FPB) spokesperson Lynette Kamineth.

The Films and Publications Act defines child pornography as images, videos or descriptions that depict a child, whether real or a person made to look like a child, engaged in sexual conduct.

“These images amount to sexual exploitation or degradation of a child,” Kamineth explained.

A child in South Africa, is anyone under the age of 18.

Section 18 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offenses and Related Matters) makes it illegal in South Africa to supply, expose or display child pornography to someone or to make publications, films or images available with the intention of enabling, encouraging or persuading someone to perform a sexual act with a child.

“Adults with an interest in the sexual exploitation of children often use images of a sexual nature to ‘groom’ children and exploit them by creating pornographic images or materials in future,” said Kamineth.

She explained that the ‘grooming’ process starts when an adult starts a seemingly innocent relationship with a child online. “This then escalates into the child being shown sexually inappropriate images, to make them feel that this type of behaviour is ‘normal’. Grooming may result in the child being exploited for the creation of child pornography themselves, but even if this does not occur, the effect of the ‘grooming’ alone is harmful to the child.”

Parents need to monitor their child’s online behaviour. “This starts with educating them that internet access is a privilege and not a right. Parents should always maintain the right to monitor their child’s online activities and set rules and limitations on what is acceptable use of the internet,” said Kamineth.

Avoid sexting

According to Kamineth, sexting is the dissemination of sexually explicit messages, images or videos with peers.

“The FPB always warns children during our public education campaigns that ‘the internet never forgets’. An image or text sent to a friend today gives them the power over you to use the image without your consent to harm you in future. This is also the basis of revenge pornography,” Kamineth explained.

She said that revenge pornography is the online sharing of an image of a sexual nature with a third party, without the permission of the person in the image. “This phenomenon is growing in prevalence and can have serious reputational consequences for the person in the image, not to mention psychological issues that can arise, such as depression or even suicide,” she said.

Inappropriate online content can be reported on the FPB’s website at www.fpb.org.za or call the hotline at 0800 148 148.