April 2022 2nd Edition

Keep children safe online

With the world increasingly moving online, it’s important for children to take advantage these opportunities while also staying safe.

The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) and Digify Africa recently hosted a webinar with Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and the Film and Publication Board (FPB) to teach children, educators, parents and the public about how to be responsible online.

Phakamile Khumalo, the Programme Manager of Public and Media Skills Development at MMA, said seven out of 10 children who answered questions as part of the SA Kids Online Study said they used the internet without their parents’ permission. Only four out of 10 children said they have some sort of information about online safety.

This shows that children need skills and resources to help them use the internet safely.

Mmaletjema Poto, the FPB’s Child Protection Officer, said parents need to be aware of the dangers their children face online, including viewing child pornography or child sexual abuse, and being groomed by sexual predators.

Children can become the target of online sexual predators by just conducting an innocent internet search and clicking on the wrong link.

Offenders then gain their trust and start grooming them.

“The child is often embarrassed and therefore doesn’t speak about it, which makes it hard for them to get out of the grooming cycle,” said Poto.

She also warned against sharing videos or images of child pornography online.

“It has become a norm to share content on social media. But sharing this type of content is evidence of child abuse. Being in possession of such content or sharing it is a criminal offence,” added Poto.

Help at hand

There are various resources available to help children use the internet safely.

The MMA runs Web Rangers, a digital literacy programme to upskill learners, teachers and parents. Educational videos about cyberbullying, sexting and online grooming, are available at www.webrangers.co.za

The MMA also helps children through its Hashplay (https://hashplay.co.za) website, which includes a social media platform that allows children to talk to an online consultant about what they are experiencing on social media.

Digify Africa has a free Kitso WhatsApp bot that helps children develop digital literacy skills. Visit https://digifyafrica.com/learners-responsible-citizens.

You can report online child sexual abuse or child violence to the FPB by emailing hotline@fpb.org.za or calling 012 003 1400. It can be reported anonymously.

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