News & Media

No doubt! Porn harms kids

Dawn Hawkins (ED: National Centre on Sexual Exploitation) and Dr Antoinette Basson (YRU@BMR, Unisa)

The sexual exploitation of children remains a discouraging reality within the South African society with devastating consequences. Yet there is insufficient research information on the exposure of children to online pornographic material, child sexual abuse images, and commercial sexual exploitation of children including sex trafficking and prostitution.

In response, the Youth Research Unit of the Bureau of Market Research (YRU@BMR) at Unisa conducted a number of research studies investigating the sexual exploitation of children in South Africa. As a result, YRU@BMR was invited by the National Centre on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) to present and discuss some of the research findings at the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation (CESE) Summit in Washington DC, USA.

Six hundred delegates attended the summit from 18 countries around the globe. According to Dr Antoinette Basson, senior researcher at YRU@BMR, the research conducted by the unit received accolades and support for being a dedicated youth research unit addressing globally relevant issues.

One of the latest YRU@BMR studies on exposure to online pornography found that almost 60% of young people (13-18 years) have been exposed to online pornographic material mostly when surfing the Internet for entertainment. Most youth continue to view pornographic content. They agreed that viewing online pornography motivates young people to be more curious about sex, engage in risky sexual activity and view men and women differently.

Based on the outcome of the study, it can be concluded that the availability of online pornographic material provides young people with a distorted sexual footprint that guides their sexual experience. Online pornographic material formulates expectations of youth about sex and completely undermines healthy sexuality.

In another YRU@BMR study, it was found that most young people (69.5%) engage in sexting, sending self-generated sexually suggestive images and messages online without contemplating the consequences of their behaviour. The YRU@BMR research emphasises that exposure to pornographic material is influencing children to engage in things way beyond their maturity levels.

According to Basson, the YRU@BMR uses the research findings to inform the South African public about the sexual exploitation of children and empower communities to effectively deal with the growing problem. There is a need to further develop the research and form a national alliance to end the sexual exploitation of children in South Africa.

Dr Antoinette Basson (YRU@BMR, Unisa), Ryan Smith (Cause for Justice), and Carla van Aswegen (Hope Risen) at the CESE summit

Other well-known researchers who presented at the CESE Summit included Dr John Foubert, Oklahoma State University; Dr Melissa Farley, Prostitution Research & Education; and Dr Donna M Hughes, University of Rhode Island.

The YRU@BMR will be hosting its fourth National Youth Research Conference on 20 and 21 September 2018 with the specific focus on online and offline sexual exploitation of children in South Africa. The conference will take place at the Unisa Muckleneuk Campus.

For more information, please contact Dr Antoinette Basson at bassoa@unisa.ac.za or (012) 429 3099.

*Submitted by Madeleine Goetz

Publish date: 2018/04/30