Our children are being exposed to porn - even violent material

28 February 2017 - 22:08 By TMG Digital
Image: iStock

Children are being exposed to porn - and it's happening right here in Gauteng.

Of concern is the addictive nature of online pornographic material‚ especially among adolescents who are generally curious about sexual behaviour and not fully matured.

The Youth Research Unit‚ a research flagship programme of the College of Economic and Management Sciences hosted within the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) at Unisa‚ recently conducted a research study‚ exploring the viewing of online sexually explicit material among secondary school learners in Gauteng.

The study was conducted among 2‚890 secondary school learners in Gauteng.

It found that 57.1% learners have been exposed to pornographic material‚ primarily via the Internet. In most instances‚ learners are unintentionally exposed to online pornographic material while searching the Internet for entertainment or educational purposes.

According to Dr Antoinette Basson‚ Senior Researcher at the Unit‚ secondary school learners are not only exposed to traditional forms of pornography but exposed to a variety of online pornographic material including sexual activity involving violence and even children.

"This finding underlines the possible harmful effect of exposure to online pornography among secondary school learners‚" the BMR said.

The study revealed that when exposed to online pornographic material‚ learners either continued viewing the content or immediately closed the website. Three out of 10 learners (30%) admitted that they felt distressed with the pornographic content that they have seen online. Despite these upsetting feelings‚ only 37.5% of learners who have been exposed to online pornographic material felt comfortable to tell a trusted individual about their online experience.

The BMR study highlights that after the initial exposure to online pornography‚ 48.4% learners continued to intentionally search for pornographic material‚ some (14.6%) even on a daily basis.

According to Basson‚ this finding clearly points to the progressive and addictive nature of online pornographic material especially among adolescents who are generally curious about sexual behaviour and not fully matured.

The study said the extensive impact of viewing online pornography was acknowledged by the participating learners‚ with approximately two thirds (65.1%) sharing the opinion that viewing online pornographic material encourages young people to engage in sexual activity (65.1%) or become more curious about sex (59.6%).

Almost 38% learners agreed that viewing online pornography influences adolescents to view women or men differently. Basson noted: "Online pornographic material often depicts women in a degrading way in sexual scenes that can have a significant effect on how women are viewed by society." The BMR study said the likelihood of adolescents being exposed to online pornographic material is increasing and becoming almost unavoidable.

"This requires guidance for adolescents on how to deal with such exposure‚ which start within the immediate family. Parents and caregivers need to be empowered to deal with situations arising from exposure to online pornographic material and provide appropriate sex education resulting in adolescents developing a healthy sex orientation."

The study confirmed that parents are concerned about their children's exposure to online pornographic material‚ with 52.8% of the participating learners admitting that their parents or caregiver have taken steps to protect them from exposure to online pornographic material. These protective measures included talking about online dangers including pornographic material (75%)‚ installing filtering software (26.1%) or limiting time spend online (22.0%).

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