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Protect Your Child Against Online Exploitation

02 May 2021
Now, more than ever, it’s vital that parents pay close attention to what their children do online and who they interact with.
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The pandemic has affected millions of lives and one of the less obvious side effects of the ongoing global lockdown restrictions is the growing prevalence of online predators. With individuals, and more notably children, spending considerably more time at home and online, authorities worldwide have seen a dramatic increase in reported cases of online child grooming and exploitation. With approximately 1.5 billion learners (according to UNICEF data) affected in some way or form by school closures or COVID-19 limitations, many young lives could be at risk right in the safety of their homes.

According to Dr Antoinette Basson from the Youth Research Unit at the Bureau of Market Research at Unisa, Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA) can take several forms:

  • An adult gains access to sexual abuse material.
  • A child is exposed to sexually explicit material.
  • A minor is groomed online for sexual purposes.
  • Sextortion – the act of threatening to release compromising images of a child unless the child either continues performing specific acts, or pays money to the extortionist.
  • Sending sexually explicit text messages (sexting) to either a peer or an adult.
  • Live online child sexual abuse through livestreaming or the uploading of videos.

Now, more than ever, it’s vital that parents pay close attention to what their children do online and who they interact with. While it’s impossible to keep track of your child’s every digital move, being more aware and discussing the various pitfalls with your child could better protect them against exploitation. Here are some things you can discuss with your child.

Equip and Safeguard against Online Exploitation

Keep it private

Remind your child that anything posted online (even in a supposed private online chat) can become public. The general rule is: if you don’t want others to see it, don’t share it.

Don’t overshare

When chatting to someone online, avoid sharing any personal information such as the school you go to, your physical address, personal contact info and other sensitive info.

Privacy settings are everything

Help your child to enable various privacy settings on their social media profiles. If you’re not sure how to change these settings, you can reach out to a friend or go to the social platform’s FAQ/Help section.

Review the apps

Make sure you know which apps and services your child is using and speak to them regularly on what they are posting online. If needed, you can block your child from accessing certain apps on their mobile devices by enabling parental controls. 





Know their friends

Ensure you know who your child is hanging out with regularly and, if possible, meet with their parent(s) or guardian(s).

Stay safe

Speak to your child about basic safety measures such as not meeting a stranger in person, always informing yourself and friends where they’re going and having an emergency plan in place should something go wrong.

Talk about it

Discuss the dangers of online exploitation with your children and make sure they feel safe to talk to you openly and freely should they feel uncomfortable about an online interaction.

Should you suspect online child sexual exploitation or abuse, there are various organisations both locally and internationally you can report it to.



Film and Publications Board Hotline

Mainly for reporting child pornography

  • Call: 0800 148 148

Childline (24 Hours)


Child Welfare South Africa



Cyber Tipline (24 Hours)

ChildSafe Movement 

Sources: Bureau of Market Research – Unisa | UNICEF | Childline SA