Technology and the growth of social platforms such as Facebook, MXit, WhatsApp, instant messaging, texts, videos and YouTube have changed the way children communicate with, and about, each other.
Through these platforms children interact with their peers from different parts of the country and world. While these platforms open a new world to children, there are some disadvantages and dangers. More people are now using the platform to commit
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DoJ&CD) recently hosted 500 learners from schools in the Free State to increase awareness on cyber bullying and sexting and the legal consequences. Learners were taught about the justice services available for victims of cyber bullying and sexting, such as obtaining a protection order from the court against a person committing the crimes. A protection order helps you as the victim to put to an end to the harassment. A person who goes against the protection order may be criminally charged.
Lerato Morutle, a learner who attended the workshop, said she learnt that cyber bullying and sexting is an offence and that it should be reported.
“As learners we should stick to using the internet to do research for our assignments and nothing else,” she said.
Another learner, Tseki Mpolokeng, said cellphones should not be used to send anything sexual.
“I did not know that sharing or passing on sexual videos and photographs that were sent to me by another contact also makes me guilty of cyber sexting or bullying,” he said.
Children’s Court Manager, Pritima Osman, advised that it’s best not to respond to these types of posts or messages via mobile devices or social media platforms.
“If someone is threatening you, sharing personal content about you and you fear your safety, contact an adult or the police immediately.”
If the cyber bullying happens at school or college, the person should be reported to the teacher.
Parents must look out for the following emotional, academic and social behavioural signs in victims:
- Emotional signs: Your child becomes withdrawn or shy, shows signs of depression, is extremely moody or agitated, is anxious or overly stressed out, and shows signs of aggressive behavior.
- Academic signs: Your child does not want to go to school, gets into trouble at school, skips school, loses interest in school and their marks suffer.
- Social signs: Your child suddenly stops using the computer, changes eating or sleeping habits and has nightmares, no longer wants to participate in activities they once enjoyed, they hurt themself, attempts or threatens suicide, and suddenly changes friends.
Your child may also be bullying others on the internet. These are the signs to look out for:
- A child stops using the computer or turns off the screen when someone is close by.
- A child appears nervous or jumpy when using the computer or cellphone.
- A child spends excessive amounts of time on the computer, and becomes upset or angry when computer or cellphone privileges are limited or taken away.
* Samona Naidu works for the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
What is Cyber Bullying?
Cyber bullying is harassment that takes place through the use of electronic devices such as mobile phones, computers or tablets on social media sites, via text or instant messaging and chat. It occurs in the form of mean or hurtful messages, embarrassing or explicit photographs, videos or emails are shared or posted on these platforms and causes harm to others.
What is Sexting?
Sexting is when nude or semi-nude photos or videos and sexually suggestive messages are sent via mobile phone through texting or chat.
These types of messages may be classified as child pornography especially where minors are involved.
Play your part to stop cyber bullying and sexting
- Parents are urged to play a role and be aware of the type of technologies and social media platforms that are used by children and to monitor the type of content that is shared on these platforms.
- Let’s stop cyber bullying and sexting! Report anyone who is a suspected perpetrator of cyber bullying and sexting at the numbers below.
Where to seek help or report Cyber Bullying and Sexting?
- Call Childline on 080 005 5555
- Call Lifeline on 011 728 1347
- Report a case to the South African Police Services 10111 or 086 001 0111