Cape Town – 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 Human Sciences Research Council on behalf of the Films and Publications Board (FPB) 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 cell phones; 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 remains limited in South Africa.
Director of S.T.O.P, Standing Together to Oppose Pornography, Clive Human, said that porn, sex exploitation online and human trafficking all exacerbate each other.
Human explained that nobody ever just wakes up one day, a paedophile with the desire of engaging 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 with soft porn, which will progress to hard porn. From hard porn they will look for more and more extreme acts, eventually one will find themselves engaging in child pornography.”
Human said that the average age of first exposure to porn has dropped from 12 to eight 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 extremely 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, on the matter of cyber security, 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 their children are getting up to.”