Almost two thirds of young South Africans have little idea of what hydraulic fracking is about, consumer insights group Pondering Panda said on Monday.
It said this emerged in a survey conducted after Cabinet lifted a moratorium on applications to explore for shale gas in the Karoo.
"Of those who claimed they had heard of fracking, only 25 percent thought it referred to a method of extracting natural gas from under the ground," Pondering Panda said in a statement.
"About 34 percent thought it [fracking] was a way to protect yourself from sunburn, while a further 26 percent believed it was a type of sexual activity."
Among those familiar with the technique, which requires fracturing rock deep below the surface to extract natural gas deposits, 84 percent said they were concerned about its possible impact.
"Young South Africans who are aware of fracking clearly feel very strongly about the issue," Pondering Panda spokesperson Shirley Wakefield said.
Close to 3000 young people were surveyed via the Mxit instant-messaging service.
"Both government and business need to do more to educate the public about fracking - both its economic benefits and potential environmental dangers," Wakefield said.
"Where people do have reservations about fracking, these should be addressed to ensure support for any future project from the people it will affect most."