In addition, thanks to lack of advertising guidelines equivalent to those which exist in the offline world, these chat rooms were marketed and advertised on platforms easily accessible to children.
These results highlight an alarming security risk for children It is inevitable that security frameworks lag technological development, but parents need to be aware of these dangers, and industry organisations and the government need to tighten up on out-dated regulations and legislation in order to protect South African children.
The study found that 65% of the chats discussed sex and sexual favours; a third of the chatters initiated cyber-sex; a quarter asked for a photograph; and 22.5% wanted to meet in person.
The research also revealed that advertised age-restrictions were not adequately enforced; terms and conditions were difficult to find and not included as part of the registration process; under-age chatters were not removed from the chat rooms; few chat rooms had an easy accessible ‘report abuse’ process; and content was often inappropriate for the advertised age limit.
As parents, we often find it difficult to keep track of these innovations and the manner in which they’re affecting the lives of our children.