81% 0f youngsters have watched porn

Kamogelo Seekoei and Luzuko Pongoma

Kamogelo Seekoei and Luzuko Pongoma

Most schoolchildren go gagga over pornography.

A whopping 81 percent of South African children between the ages of 13 and 17 have seen pornographic images on their friends' cellphones.

Sixty-seven percent have been exposed to pornography on movies and, by the time they reach 18 years of age, 64 percent would have seen images of pornography on the Internet.

Their reasons for pornographic viewing? Curiosity.

These shocking statistics were revealed by the Films and Publications Board's ministerial task team on child pornography under the leadership of Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba at an indaba which ended this week.

The survey was conducted among high school pupils at randomly chosen schools in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The aim was 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, said Home Affairs spokesman Bayanda Mzoneli.

He said the study was also aimed at empowering pupils with the necessary skills to cope with any distress they might suffer from involuntary exposure to disturbing and harmful materials.

Films, the Internet, cellphones and magazines were said to be some of the sources of pornography for youngsters.

The report also revealed that 45 percent of the respondents admitted to watching pornographic films regularly. "More boys (84 percent) than girls (54 percent) have watched at least one pornographic film," the report said.

But 42 percent of the respondents said they felt uncomfortable while watching such films.

The indaba suggested the banning of pornography in the country. The organisations have also attacked a popular and cheap cellphone chat- room, Mixit, which they say posed a danger to children.

Mzoneli said some adults logged on to some of the chat-rooms and pretended to be children. "They groom children by exposing them to pornography to prepare them for sexual exploitation."

He said it was hard to regulate chat- rooms and it was up to the parents to monitor the use of cellphones and to teach children about the dangers of the Internet.

Mixit says it has 5,7 million clients. Twenty percent are between the ages of 12 and 17 years, and three percent are 12 years old or younger.

Charl Louw, a clinical psychologist specialising in children, said it would be difficult to get rid of pornography. "What is important is for parents to talk to their children and not let other people give them such information."

He said the effects in children who were victims of pornography were severe. "They grow up thinking they can use their bodies to communicate."

He said parents should educate themselves on pornography and assume that their children would be exposed in order to help them.

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