22 May 2018

“Online Luring” - Social Media Update

by Verlie Oosthuizen, Partner, Durban,
Practice Area(s): Social Media / Cyber Crimes |

There is nothing more terrifying to a parent than the thought of their child being in danger or exposed to a predator.  Unfortunately, the internet has presented countless possibilities of danger for children.  “Online luring” occurs when an online predator coerces or tricks child into leaving the safety of their school or home to meet them with the intention of committing some heinous act like kidnapping or sexual assault.

This is not a new phenomenon although the phrase “online luring” may be a recent description.  The Law Reform Commission did a very detailed study on child pornography (child abuse materials) in 2015 and mentioned the awful term of “chicken hawking” which is the phrase used in Africa to describe the “online targeting and grooming of children through social networking sites and chat rooms for offline sexual abuse and exploitation…” That study indicates that African countries have been reported as safe havens for despicable practices of this nature.

Obviously, the simplest solution would be to keep children offline to avoid these scenarios.  The legal recommendation is to pay attention to the age restrictions and limits on social networking sites and not allow children under the age of 13 on social media platforms.  More often than not these age limits are ignored but they should not be.  The social pressures for children to be on social media would be reduced if all parents adhered to those limits.  For adolescents over 13 the best course is for parents to keep talking to them about the dangers out there and to set reasonable limits and safety precautions.

“Online luring”, depending on the form it takes, is almost certainly a criminal offence and any evidence of it happening needs to be taken seriously and reported to the police without hesitation.