The Internet allows individuals to make contact with other individuals, without divulging personal details or information. This means that the user has the choice to remain anonymous. Although the Internet has numerous advantages, the anonymity with which it can be used could cause certain problems. The anonymous nature of the Internet makes it extremely difficult to determine who is gaining access to personal information about Internet users. Thus it becomes an ideal avenue for paedophiles to gain access to information about adolescents and to use this information in the process to get close to, and to abuse them. Few parents who allow their children to use the Internet are aware of paedophiles’ activities on the Internet. This dearth of knowledge about the ways in which paedophiles operate, necessitates that parents and guardians should be educated about the potential dangers the Internet could hold for their children. This is especially necessary “as computers are becoming more and more a part of our daily lives, and computer literacy is a necessity in today’s computer driven world” (Haupt, 2001:26). Within this study the qualitative approach has been used. Interviewing was used as a method of data collection. The purpose of the interviews was to probe particular aspects in depth. An interview schedule was used during the interviews as a guide for the interviewer, and contained relevant questions which ensured that all the necessary aspects were covered during the interview. The focus of the interviews was to determine new avenues that paedophiles utilise to approach children for sexual purposes. In addition, the interviewer enquired if the experts have dealt with South African case studies, where an individual used the Internet to gain access to children. The adequacy of current South African legislation regarding child pornography and sexual activities with adolescents via the Internet was explored. Research participants were asked to discuss the existence of preventative measures to curb the use of the Internet for the enticement of adolescents for sexual purposes. Subsequently the existence of awareness campaigns to make parents or caregivers and children more aware of the dangers that the Internet poses for adolescents was discussed. After conducting the interviews, they were transcribed and interpreted. The research findings derived from the interviews were categorised and these categories were discussed. The analysis of the data indicate that the global problem with regards to the use of the Internet as an avenue to initiate sexual activities with adolescents is still vaguely grasped in South Africa. The fact that only one reported case of a child in South Africa that was approached by a paedophile online was identified, accentuates the dearth of knowledge regarding this social problem. Although it is not easily detectable, it is still a serious problem that needs to be attended to, especially when taking into account that more than three million South Africans have access to the Internet. In addition, children spend the majority of their leisure time using computers and being on the Internet (CIA – The world factbook: Communications South Africa, n.d.). Thus, this problem can only become worse in future. The Internet can be the child’s best friend, or worst enemy. Therefore it is the responsibility of all parents, guardians and the community to protect children against the negative aspects of the Internet.
Dissertation (MA (Criminology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.