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The dangers of 'sharenting'

Written by Kgaogelo Letsebe

Social media’s popularity is soaring, with a growing number of users taking to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share images of their everyday lives.

People don’t only post images of themselves, however, but also of their children. Social media is filled with videos and pictures of charming children with sparkling personalities doing or saying something entertaining.

However, should the lives of our children be made public through social media posts?

According to the Film and Publication Board's (FPB) Communications Manager Lynette Kamineth, there is no law in South Africa that covers ‘sharenting’, which is the overuse of social media by parents to share content about their children.

“Currently, legislation in South Africa, such as the Films and Publications Act (FPA), only governs the exploitation of children for the creation, possession or distribution of child sexual abuse material, commonly known as child pornography,” she explains.

However, Kamineth adds that the FPB urges parents to tread with caution when posting on social media.

“Cybercriminals trawl through social media collecting information that may be used in their scams and crimes. Parents need to exercise restraint, caution and vigilance.”

She says that although the FPB has a relationship with most social media platforms, which allows it to flag images that contravene the FPA, it cannot police parents.

Keep your child safe

Kamineth shares the following tips to help keep children safe online:

  • Teach children about the dangers that lurk online and show them how to set privacy functions on apps, and how to report and block content they do not want to see. You can also do this on their behalf.
  • If a child experiences emotional distress because of an online situation, ask them how they would like to see the issue resolved. Work with them to come up with a solution.
  • Teach children not to share anything online that can cause harm to someone else, but to rather report harmful posts or images to the authorities.

You can report suspected illegal online activity that is related to pornography or child abuse to the SAPS Crime Stop number - 08600 10111.